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#1MavsFan
09-30-2002, 11:20 PM
THE RUMOR MILL By Steve "BskBALL" Kyler
for HOOPSWORLD.com
Sep 30, 2002, 11:45am

PROJECTIONS
With Media Day scheduled around the league, and the hype of the new season just weeks away… let talk predictions:

EAST
#1 BOSTON: 57 wins Say what you will about the lack of a point guard, the Celtics have a group that has been together, they added interior scoring in Vin Baker, and they have one of the better scorers in the league in Paul Pierce, they have a lot of nice pieces and look to be one of the elite teams in the East, if not THE elite team in the east.

#2 NEW ORLEANS: 56 wins A happy Baron Davis, a healthy Jamal Mashburn and a bunch of big guys that can score. The Hornets are another team returning the same core, under the same system, and should be improved provided they stay healthy. Don’t discount having actual fans either.

#3 ORLANDO: 52 wins The Magic still have issues at the center spot, but in the East that shouldn’t matter. A healthy Grant Hill, a healthy Tracy McGrady and a returning cast should be a huge difference in eeking into a playoff spot, and clearly securing one.

#4 NEW JERSEY: 51 wins The Nets still remain a top team to beat, still not sold their off season improvements make them a better regular season team, but playoffs and post season could be a different story. The key player in New Jersey- Kenyon Martin. He spent the summer in the weight room and will start at the 4 spot.

#5 ATLANTA: 47 wins The Hawks are healthy, and have a nice lineup, adding Glenn Robinson gives them another serious scoring threat and a healthy Theo Ratliff, should make them a playoff contender.

#6 NEW YORK: 45 wins The Knicks have a proven impact guy in the front court and he’s not injured going into camp. The burning questions remains, are Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell still hungry? If they are the Knicks are a playoff team, if they are lethargic, like last year say hello to the lottery.

#7 DETROIT: 44 wins The Pistons will miss Jerry Stackhouse, but the team will be better off for it, defense will reign in Detroit, and while they won’t finish in the top of the division, their young guys will get time to develop making them a real threat next year, while remaining a playoff team this year. Look for Tayshaun Prince to be a huge factor from the bench.

#8 WASHINGTON: 43 wins This isn’t the Michael Jordan hype, he’s a bonus, look at the Wizards roster without MJ and you have a nice group of emerging players, and a proven impact guy in Jerry Stack. Add MJ and Oakley and this is a nice mix of savvy veterans and impact scorers. If Doug Collins can keep them happy with touches and MJ stays healthy, there is little doubt the Wizards are in the post season. Kwame Brown will have a break out year.

PHILADELPHIA: 42 wins Hey, I love Philly, and no one would like to see them win more than I do, but beyond Iverson who draws the double team? Keith Van “Inconsistent”? Aaron “Injury” McKie? I don’t think the 76ers have enough scoring power to compete this year. If Iverson has another MVP like season maybe, but even Larry Brown is going to struggle with this roster.

TORONTO: 41 wins It all comes down to Vince Carter, if Vince is above average, they win 41… If Vince is explosively exceptional.. they can win 50 games. They have all the support guys in town, and they have added some nice pieces in the draft over the past two years that may help, but it all falls back to Vince.

CHICAGO: 38 wins It’s a toss up in Chi-town. If Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall really click well together, things could get nasty in Chicago… in a good way. They have a nice group of young guys, but they still have some learning curves to overcome, and they still have an unproven center. Ty Chandler is coming along nicely, and if Eddy Curry can keep pace, the Bulls could win more than 38. Its just not likely.

INDIANA: 38 wins Reggie is getting older, and the Pacers have their future tied to some younger guys that still are unproven. Jermaine O’Neal is nice, but he’s not a “take-over-the-game” player, and with Jamal Tinsely coming into his second season, its going to take coaching, something the Pacers don’t have in abundance. Sorry Zeke. Its not out of the question the Pacers win more than 38 games, but they also are not likely to do much better.

MILWAUKEE: 35 wins The end of George Karl is near. Unless the Bucks make is firmly into the playoffs and get at least to the conference Finals, Big George is toast. That in itself is going to be the reason the Bucks struggle. They have a ton of talent, but whenever a coach is worrying about keeping his job, very rarely do they do a good job, and as soon as the players see blood in the water. They’ll fold on Karl faster than Team USA. For Ray Allen, I hope this isn’t the case, but he and Tim Thomas should have exceptional years.

MIAMI: 30 wins Its about rebuilding, and changing the tempo. Miami has some nice players on the roster, and with Pat Riley you can expect them to play hard every night. But even Riley can’t win enough games to contend. It takes horses and frankly, Miami simply does not have them, but the ones they have should be nice components to build around. Look for Brian Grant to make the All-Star team this year.

CLEVELAND: 20 wins Hey, they’ll be fun to watch. But you can’t discount the fact that Cleveland is playing for the fans, not the wins, and LeBron James is simply 82 games away from being a Cav. All joking aside, the Cavs are too young to contend, but have some solid prospects and will be like the Clippers last year. The first 3 quarters will be a dunk fest filled with explosive plays at the rim. While the fourth quarter will be were porous defense gives games away.

WEST
#1 SACRAMENTO: 55 wins How many free throws do you think the Kings team did this summer? Adding Keon Clark gives them another serviceable weapon. Re-signing Mike Bibby gives them a returning core that was impressive last year, and having been one game away from the promise land, will likely make them the hungriest of the bunch. You have to like the Kings in the west, barring injury or incarceration, The Kings are the team to beat.

#2 DALLAS: 52 wins The Mavs will be like many in the east. Their biggest improvement was keeping the core together. The Mavs should win the Midwest in a walk, and I am predicting 110 a game from Dallas. If you can’t score in Big D, your done. Look for Eduardo Najera to have an explosive year, and will likely lead the Mavs in rebounding.

#3 SAN ANTONIO: 50 wins It’s the Tim Duncan show… The Spurs added another big aging stiff in Kevin Willis, but that is really all the Spurs need to anchor the middle so Tim can freelance off the glass. Tony Parker is said to be in great shape and spent his summer in the gym. The additions of Manny Ginobili and Speedy Claxton should give them added scoring punch. Look for Erick Barkley to have a break out year from the bench. If he makes the team.

#4 LA LAKERS: 48 wins The Lakers are starting from the hole. With Shaq likely nursing his toe into November, the Lakers will have to win with an aging team. Kobe is a great anchor players, and the more this squad plays together the easier things come, but the West is geared to beat them, and without the Big Guy dominating the Lakers will likely struggle out of the gate, only to turn it on late in the season and walk into another title run. Look for Kareem Rush to have a breakout pre-season only to be lost on Phil Jackson’s bench holding down the Gatorade cooler.

#5 PORTLAND: 46 wins If the Blazers can re-sign Bonzi Wells all will be right in Portland, if they can not reach a deal, its going to be a lockeroom distraction. Add that to Damon Stoudamire’s bitching and two complainers will kill chemistry. Look for Qyn Woods to have a nice pre-season only to be lost in Portland shuffle.

#6 LA CLIPPERS: 45 wins The Clippers should be a nice squad, clearly they could be a solid tier playoff team, but youthful exuberance will cost them games. It will be interesting to see how Andre Miller fits in, but the glaring question will be how much attention is paid top contract situations and not game performance. Look for Quentin Richardson to explode from the bench, he’s my lead candidate for 6th man of the year.

#7 HOUSTON: 42 wins If the Rockets are healthy, meaning Glen Rice and Mo Taylor. The Rockets have some nice weapons. Steve Francis is on a quest for the MVP, he’s added a few new moves to his game this summer, and has worked harder than anyone at the Westside Tennis Club, even after inking his monster extension. The Cat and Franchise show should not only be entertaining (as it always is) but it should yeild wins this year. Yao Ming will not be a factor.

#8 UTAH: 42 wins Say what you like, the Jazz system wins games. The loss of Donyell Marshall won’t be as significant as many as saying. Look for Matt Harping to be the third weapon, and the continued emergence of Andre Kirilenko and DeShawn Stevenson will be the reason Utah continues its streak of playoff appearances.

MINNESOTA: 41 wins It comes down to point guard play. If Terrell Brandon can contribute Minney wins more than 41 games, but if injuries continue to haunt them at the Point, they go down in flames. Look for Marc Jackson to have a much better year, on par with his first season in Golden State.

SEATTLE: 40 wins Gary’s going to dick with them all year. Its going to come down to “pay me or trade me”. The Sonics have a nice young core to build around and Gary Payton will be the key. If Gary can have another career year, the Sonics will win more than 40 games. If Gary pouts and “protects’ his interests, Seattle flames out, even though Rashard Lewis will average close to a double-double, and makes the All-Star team.

MEMPHIS: 35 wins Memphis clearly is a better team than 35 wins. I am just not sold Sidney Lowe can coach them beyond 35 wins. Michael Dickerson is really the key. If Mike D can play to form, the Grizz could contend for the 7-8 seed in the West. Look for Shane Battier to be in the running for 6th man, and Pau Gasol makes the All-Star for the Grizz and will average a double-double.

PHOENIX: 35 wins I’d like to say Phoenix is gonna win a ton of games. Shawn Marion and Stephon Marbury are very nice pieces. In the West its gonna take a lot more than Shawn and Steph, and the talent and consistency levels take a dip towards the worst after them. The Suns have a lot of young guys that could explode and change that, but how many teams in the NBA really make a run with rookies and 2nd year guys anchoring them. Penny Hardaway could be the X-factor, but he’s more like the x-star, and the solution.

GOLDEN STATE: 28 wins Golden State will be the Clippers of last season. They are young and exciting; they will get a lot of attention for good play, and will choke like babies eating carrots in the 4th quarter. The Heartbreakers will be a more accurate moniker than Warriors. The upside is this will be the last year Golden State starts scouting the College ranks in December. Look for Bobby Sura and Jason Richardson to be the one-two punch in Golden State.

DENVER: 20 wins The Nuggets have a plan… tank, draft, spend… With twenty million in cap cash, and a roster that will be lucky to win 20 games, the Nuggets will get a high draft choice and make a run at Lebron James, and will jockey that into a few nice mid to upper tier free agents with their cash, and should be in the playoffs next year. Too bad they can’t fast forward through the next 82 games. Look for Nene Hilario to struggle early on, Skita Tskitishvili to be in the running for rookie of the year.



SOME SHOTS
Here are some of the random stories from the week…

THE DREAM IS OVER: Word has it the Toronto Raptors will announce the retirement of Hakeem Olajuwon sometime today. The retirement will likely be because of back issues, but will be deemed a medical retirement. At this point there are no buyout terms being suggested, meaning Toronto will get no immediate cap relief on the deal, but could apply for a medical exception, but its unlikely they would use it even if granted, because of luxury tax concerns. Raptors GM Glen Grunwald hinted that he had some things pending, and there is talk Toronto may be exploring a trade involving Jerome Williams, not because they necessarily want to get rid of him, but he appears to be the only Raptor this side of Vince Carter that has appeal to other teams. The Raptors are said to be looking for size in anything they consider.


PAYTON UNCERTIANITY: Gary Payton was said to be at his Las Vegas home on Sunday, and no one seems to know if he will report on time to training camp. His agent Aaron Goodwin said Payton will report, it’s just not clear if he’ll report on time. Its being suggested Payton might hold out a couple of days and eat the fines, in order to illustrate his displeasure with how his been treated with regards to his contract status. Payton is entering the last year of his deal and will be the highest paid point guard in the league. For the past two summers Payton has been told an extension would be coming, but one has not appeared and the Sonics say one will not appear this year either. Payton himself told media he would be at training camp..


IT’S BOBBY’s YEAR: Word from Oakland Bobby Sura may be the starter at point guard going into camp, meaning it will be his job to lose. Sura has been one of the brighter spots this summer in voluntary workouts, and it seems for now that Golden State will look to him to guide the team.


NO YAO NOW: The Houston Rockets still do not have Yao Ming under contract, and its not clear when or even if the Rockets will get to sign the player they selected #1 overall. The delay really is not a huge surprise, as China had indicated they would not release Yao to the NBA until after the Asia Games, which will conclude in mid-October. There is a lot of speculation that the blow up between Wang Zhizhi and Chinese basketball remains a hurdle, although the Rockets say they have been told one situation has nothing to do with the other. The Rockets had been assured they would receive clearance to sign Yao, and that has not come, and it does not look like it will be coming anytime soon.

Nash13
09-30-2002, 11:44 PM
I think Raef LaFrentz and Eduardo Najera will get better in rebounds this year, but i think Dirk will still lead the team and #3 overall. Nash better win the most improved player this year, or i will write a very nasty to Stern. This may seem like a longshot, but I think Dirk will win the league's MVP.

LakerMania
10-01-2002, 01:13 AM
No way in hell that 4 of the top 6(and the top 2)team records are from the leastern conference. The east coast media bias rears its ugly head once more.i/expressions/face-icon-small-mad.gif

MavKikiNYC
10-01-2002, 07:42 AM
Wack list--not sure why they think there'll be a flip-flop from West to East in terms of top-winning teams.

Agree though that Mavs won't hit 57 again. 50-53 sounds right.

Hoopsmeister
10-01-2002, 02:03 PM
I think that Bizarro had a lot of input into this particular set of rankings.

veruca salt
10-01-2002, 05:15 PM
surely the easts' rise to success could not be that rapid.
last season it was a foregone conclusion that no matter who got
through from the east, was going to be beaten by whoever got through from the west.
crazy.

Rhylan
10-01-2002, 07:54 PM
The problem is that these east coast Yahoos seem to think that the quick (and relative) rise of the Celts and Nets is a reflection on the teams, and not on the weak competition. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

veruca salt
10-01-2002, 08:18 PM
It's also a matter of looking at the fact that (in my opinion) the Kings & Spurs have both improved, yet this guys thinks they're going to drop 6 & 8 games respectively.
How are the Lakers only going to win one more game than Atlanta?
How is Bobby Sura going to have ANYTHING to do with the one two punch in Golden State?