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The NBA Season

The Basketball is Rolling

Generally, I love predictions. Who looks good, who looks bad. It's fun to put on that ESPN prognosticator hat, be the Berninator or Dicky V and, of course, put your team up there with the others in which we see promise. This year's NBA season is no different for some, but for me, a traditional Lakers fan, everything seems different. The Gods have thrown a wrench in my love of predictions, which might have something to do with a picture that doesn't look very pretty -- for the Lakers that is. But for the rest of the pack, this season is bright and from the first few games I think hoopsters will be pleased.

That is why, while the powers that be -- San Antonio, Detroit, Indiana -- look secure in their dreams of playing for a championship, there are a group of teams that have a chance to shake things up. So, throwing more specific predictions to the wind, let's just say we should all be looking forward to watching Miami, Dallas and yes, Utah, whenever possible.

Miami really has a real chance to include themselves in the list of teams that have a chance to play for a championship. Honestly, Shaq doesn't have to go for 30/15 every night to see his team go to the top. He just has to stay healthy which will be a major achievement. Sidekick #1 will be Dwayne Wade, who has exploded in the first week and would have to be considered a top level player. Sidekick #2 Eddie Jones is so good as a third option it's not even funny. His long arms clog the passing lanes and his outside shot will give Shaq more room to rumble under the basket. Miami will be a strong force in the East.

In Big D, the D is finally in Dallas. The addition of Eric Dampier has made the team a contender for the first time in a long while. While Steve Nash's absence will be important on offense, his now- gone defensive liabilities will be to the Mavericks' benefit. The Diggler is looking good, as is Finley. A bench that has Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse will not lack scoring ability. Add to that the fresh legs of Josh Howard, Devin Harris, and Marquis Daniels, and the only question is are they too young at key positions to go all the way.

As for Utah, I won't put the pressure on them as being in a class of Dallas or Miami. But with Kirilenko and Boozer taking the two forward spots, the tandem has added enough grit and talent for them to be up along with the first tier of NBA teams. And with Harpring, Eisley, and Bell coming off the bench, there won't be much of a drop off when the starters take a seat. But getting back to the K & B brothers, Boozer is the boards and interior presence every team needs while K will pick your pocket and swat it back the other way just when you think you're in the clear. The only thing that could hold this team back is the lack of a decent center. And with Jerry Sloan, coach extra-ordinaire, at the helm, the should be a year of sweet music.

As a footnote, there was a lot of buzz about Denver and Houston. But as we've seen in the past, chemistry is oh, so important in a game where there are only five guys on the floor at one time. Both these teams have a lot of talent and hopefully will be able to pull together, but the odds are not so good.

With Denver, Kenyon Martin is the exact opposite of what the team needed. He is small for the West and his attitude and probable production don't warrant the max type of contract he was awarded.

In Houston, the team really needs to defer to Yao as much as possible. He's sound fundamentally, unselfish and productive when he does go for his shot. The only problem is the guys he's been surrounded by don't even know how to say "defer". Yao has to start asserting himself, which has been difficult for him to do.

As a foot footnote: Surprise team of the year? Toronto. In a weak division, taking the top spot would be an amazing turnaround. Assuming Vince Carter can stay healthy, I like their chances in the Atlantic.