Our NBA preview continues with the Southeast and just like its NHL brethren, it is arguably the worst division in the league. For 2009 draft lottery picks, I highly recommend you spend some time this year reading up and acquainting yourselves with 4 of these 5 cities just to be safe.
5. Charlotte Bobcats – The worst of the worst. I watched this team play a preseason game last night in which they only scored 30 first half points. No wonder they went 0-8! The only things that kept me mildly interested were 1) J-Rich’s dazzling array of circus layups that didn’t even hit the rim, and 2) figuring out who the new uber-feminine Euro ponytail guy was on the Bobcats. Did Walter Hermann, the basketball Fabio, come back for a second stint? So I nearly crapped my pants when I found out it was the immortal stiff, Adam Morrison, whose new pedophile look should do wonders for keeping little children and the next generation of fans away from watching this awful team. I mean, did Jordan and Co. just assume they were drafting a team of collegiate all-stars for another March Madness run? Because a core of Felton, Okafor, May, Augustin, and Morrison just ain’t gonna cut it in this putrid division, let alone the NBA. This is the most forgettable franchise around. Can we fold them or at least move them to Seattle or Vancouver already?
4. Washington Wizards – Sure, the Wiz had some bad injury luck the last couple of years just before the playoffs, but are they that disillusioned to think their core would have competed anyways? Because not much has changed except that Arenas is out indefinitely and Jamison is older, banged up, and recently paid. Sure the Caron Butler trio is a nice player, but I’ve always felt this troika has been way overrated and overpaid. Plus Deshawn Stevenson is still a bum, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood are not developing after 8 years of mediocrity, and if Andray Blatche is your future, you might as well start counting your ping pong balls now. And have fun with Agent Zero’s $111m broken knees over the next 6 years. Does Hibachi also mean deadweight in Japanese?
3. Atlanta Hawks – “Big beats, hit streets, see gangsters roamin. And parties don’t stop till eight in the mo’nin.” Well, I hope the Waffle House is good to this year’s Hawks because last year’s playoff parties may be a distant memory in mere months. Seriously, leave it up to their idiot management to immediately derail any momentum from the Celtics series by stalling forever on Josh Smith’s contract and low-balling Josh Childress to the point he’d rather go to Greece for his paycheck and a bucket of gyros. C’mon, really? Shouldn’t Atlanta be the last franchise trying to call a player’s bluff? The Atlanta Spirit Group makes MLSE look like Google to their Worldcom.
While Childress’ departure hurts a lot, it does open the door for Marvin Williams to prove himself. Does he succeed? I’m undecided but I don’t think he provides enough to unequivocally say this team is significantly better from last year’s 38 win team that snuck into the playoffs in a pathetic conference that should be improved this year. I think for that to happen, Bibby will have to summon his inner Andre Miller in a contract year, Joe Johnson will have to play every game like he did Game 4, Josh Smith will have to restrain himself from assassinating Coach Woodson, and they all have to stay healthy to cover up a bench that has less depth than Michael Vick's bank account. I’m pulling for them but sounds like a lot, eh? At least they’ll take solace in Al Horford’s development and finding new ways to screw the Raptors every time they visit. Plus, you don't mess with the Zaza.
2. Miami Heat – I don’t get why everyone automatically assumes this team is going to internally combust and become the felons of South Beach. I see a lot of talent at the 2-4 positions that’s not unlike an upgraded version of the Hawks. D-Wade was killer at the Olympics and I’m seriously hoping his body holds up the whole year. The NBA needs the 2006 Flash back and without that bumbling moron Shaq around, I can actually root for him now. Beasley is going to be awesome and average an 18/7 while Marion will still be one of the best small forward rebounders and defenders, even if his offensive flaws are exposed without Nash to feed him alley-oops all game. The Heat are still fast and will run and gun, which is to his and the rest of the team’s strength. And if Chalmers can put down the bong and become a decent PG, I totally feel this Heat team can make the playoffs. Love the gamble on Shaun Livingston too. The big question is if at the trade deadline, the Heat are hovering around .500 or lower, will they move Matrix? If so and they get shit all in return, then I’m not guaranteeing anything. Also true if Stephon Marbury shows up to South Beach in a truck.
1. Orlando Magic – They’re here by default even though I’m not a huge fan and think they should be much better than they are. Honestly, why doesn’t the whole team just share turns lobbing 12 foot passes in the vicinity of the rim for Howard to throw down? Oh that’s right, they still have that afterbirth Jameer Nelson running the point and thinking he’s a first team all-star. Hedo Turkoglu was a revelation last year, especially in crunch time when he seemed to clear out defenders and create space with his huge schnozz. The Magic better hope it wasn’t an aberration and that Rashard Lewis becomes more multi-dimensional, or else their fate is looking similar to last year – just good enough to make the 2nd round but clearly inferior to the conference’s elite. I’ll also be interested to see what Pietrus does with a more featured role and inspiration from his new coach (sorry, redundant joke, but always humourous).