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2014 NBA Foreshadowing: Time To Hit The Campaign Trail

DJ DUNSONWho needs a Ghostbusters reboot when the Knicks have Phil Jackson in the front office pulling the strings of Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony like Vigo The Carpathian’s vessels.

DJ DUNSON

Who needs a Ghostbusters reboot when the Knicks have Phil Jackson in the front office pulling the strings of Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony like Vigo The Carpathian’s vessels.

New Yorkers are currently bowing at the feet of Jackson, but if the Triangle offense’s implementation and the Zen Master’s moves don’t result in a playoff seeding, his reputation as a franchise kingmaker will grow stale.

New Yorker’s should consider themselves lucky. Oklahoma City is a special type of hell. If the Knicks were able to collect a quartet of future stars like the Disney Channel, they wouldn’t spare any expenses to keep them together. Instead, general manager Sam Presti is hiding the loot like Chris Rock ordering one rib.


The constant string of injuries att the worst possible time since James Harden’s trade is reminiscent of Boston’s Bambino Curse.


In 2013, they finished the playoffs without Russell Westbrook. A few months later, they began the season without Westbrook, lost him again at midseason and then watched Serge Ibaka go down in Game 7 against the Clippers. Durant’s stress fracture should only keep him off the court for a few more weeks, but this feels like another drop before it begins raining cats and dogs on the young Thunder.

On the other end of the NBA career spectrum are a trio of basketball elders raging against the dying of the light.

Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan are a rarity in this day and age of superstars traversing from franchise to franchise. Each has constructed Hall of Fame resumes over the course of their careers while remaining in uniform for a single franchise.


For Duncan, the regular season is simply an 82-game endurance drill before the actual mission launches in April.

In Kobe’s world, these 82 games are his opportunity to cash in for a few quick resume stuffers and pocket change in an attempt to spark a quick comeback like Mel Gibson in The Expendables. If you’ve listened to Truehoop’s Henry Abbott lately, you’ve probably heard that Kobe is allegedly as unpopular to elite free agents as Mel is to the NAACP.


Conversely, a 36-year-old Kobe may be slightly more productive than a 33-year-old Dwayne Wade, who’s starting to play like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon IV. He looks way too old for this 82-game shit.

Meanwhile, LeBron James, Anderson Varajeo and Dan Gilbert have reunited in Cleveland like Jack, Kate and John Locke. Unfortunately, Dion Waiters is the potential combustible chemical within the Cavaliers equation. Essentially, he’s the anti-LeBron.

Undersized, cantankerous towards teammates and an inefficient volume shooter.

If Waiters doesn’t mend his game and attitude to appease James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the King may do him like Jason Kidd did Lawrence Frank.

Their biggest challenge to the Cavs in the East will be Derrick Rose van Winkle and the NBA Live 2K15 season mode simulation champion Bulls. However, out West a few ripe championship contenders look to finally squeeze through their championship window.



The Los Angeles Clippers have hidden all their Apple contraband as new owner Steve Ballmer introduces a newer, more palatable era in the history of this forlorn franchise. The conference is wide open and Chris Paul is expected to finally seize this moment.


San Antonio is the obvious frontrunner, but the extra four months of basketball they’ve played in the past two seasons has to be exponentially more draining on a team like the Spurs than it would be for the Clippers, Thunder or Warriors.

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The Golden State Warriors have a gaping window, but head coach Steve Kerr’s task is to lift the Bay Area’s best from League Pass MVPs to postseason assassins. Steve Nash’s pseudo-retirement in Los Angeles this weekend is a reminder that the sand in an hourglass waits for no man. Curry is the closest thing to Nash in the NBA today, but there’s a difference between being a B-list action star and Kids Choice Award winner and an A-list thespian.

The Warriors offensive should be blockbuster quality, but it remains to be seen if they can actually win with such a light backcourt during playoff award season.

Meanwhile, the young adult crowd to watch is led by leading ROY candidate Andrew Wiggins, who felt like Carlton on his first night in the new crib after LeBron began negotiating the Kevin Love swap.


Wiggins can’t be Carlton in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In the land of Prince, Wiggins has to lead as Minnesota’s Fresh Prince. At least with Rubio as his delivery man, he may challenge Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond for most dunks this season.

Finals pick: Chicago Bulls over Oklahoma City Thunder

 

RICARDO HAZELL

And the time has once again come upon us. That time when the league that features the pound-for-pound best athletes in the world takes to the hardwood for the 2014-2015 NBA season. As is the case every year, basketball fans are chomping at the bit for the first tip-off. About eight months from now, the sports the NBA will crown its champion and those sports reporters and bloggers who came correct in their preseason prognostication will enjoy a big pat on the proverbial back, while those who were wrong will have to eat crow and make excuses. As we do each year around this time, each member of The Shadow League will give some educated, and not so educated, guesses at whose going to come out on top when all is said and done. 


There are several story lines that standout at this point in the season. Primary among them is whether or not the newly formed Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to make it to the NBA Finals in their first season together. Though the triumvirate of SF LeBron James, PG Kyrie Irving, and PF Kevin Love are definitely a force to be reckoned with on paper. However, there are several looming concerns over offensive flow and team continuity. Yes, LeBron is seen around the league as the ideal teammate with his willingness to pass the ball and his preeminent, pom-pom waving tendencies of camaraderie, there is no guarantee that he will mesh with Kyrie Irving. This may be the first time in his entire basketball career that Irving will be asked to defer to another individual, which will be the case as far as LeBron is concerned, as far as being a primary ball handler is concerned. Also, will Irving be a willing enough passer to make sure Love gets his shots?  In addition, SG Deon Waiters will be able to stow his considerable ego and tendency to force shots for the sake of team cohesiveness?  Lastly, newly minted Head Coach David Blatt is in his first season after four seasons coaching Maccabi Tel Aviv in the competitive Israeli Basketball League. Is he capable of keeping the average NBA player motivated during the Dog Days of the season? Can he be cool under pressure?


Though the Cavaliers will easily get 50 wins this season, there are no guarantees that a largely refurbished team will be able to win an NBA championship in their first season together. Besides, the Chicago Bulls just looks like the better team with the addition of PF Pau Gasol, as well as the long-awaited return and apparent rebirth of MVP winning PG Derrick Rose.  Rose is looking like his old, pre-injury self again and is averaging 16 points on 48 percent from the field.  He closed out the preseason scoring 30 and 27 points respectively. If that’s any indicator of what the league is to expect, LeBron and the entire NBA are in for a rude surprise.  Pau Gasol is balling as well.

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Another area of controversy throughout the league is whether or not Los Angeles Lakers SG Kobe Bryant is still considered a top-tier player in the NBA. There has been much talk and speculation regarding whether Bryant is akin to Michael Jordan during his last return with the Washington Wizards in 2001. Meanwhile, Kobe has seethed in this atmosphere of disrespect and has called out those who dared throw dirt on his basketball acumen and durability at the relatively advanced age of 36. Thus far in the preseason Bryant has proved that he can still score whenever he wants to, from wherever he wants to.  His array of elusive fade away jump shots seem as lethal and unstoppable as they ever have. He averaged 19 points per game during the preseason. But his once legendary ball hawking abilities have diminished considerably and have been exploited on several occasions. However, Bryant is an all-time great and a first ballot Basketball Hall of Famer when all is said and done. Though he’s no longer a lockdown defender, I feel like he will be an excellent help defender and situational defender as well.

In addition, fans can expect another deep postseason run from the San Antonio Spurs. Though head coach Gregg Popovich has been upset about his team’s defensive effort during the preseason, this group of savvy veterans have learned exactly when to turn it on during the season. Also, 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is prime for an all-star season after exorcising the demons of that haunted him since his 2013 NBA Finals disappearances. Once you defeat the best player in the league in a critical situation, the benefits to a young player’s ego can last an entire career. 

 

J.R. GAMBLE

The West isn’t looking as formidable as in past years but that should bode well for a veteran San Antonio Spurs team that function like a well-oiled 57’ Chevy and probably has one more NBA Finals run left. Golden State, Houston and the OKC Thunder will prove to be pretenders once again. If Doc Rivers and the Clippers are ever going to make an NBA Finals appearance, the window is closing and this is the year.



There hasn’t been a black/white combo as lethal or with the net worth of LBJ and Kevin Love since Michael Jackson and Paul MCarty teamed up for a couple of smash hits on the Thriller album.

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I see Cleveland steam-rolling the East and meeting San Antonio in the Finals. LeBron James, Love and Kyrie Irving will reach the promise land and win it all this season.  James will have officially done something that neither MJ nor Kobe could do and that’s lead two different squads to an NBA Championship, solidifying his place on the NBA’s highly-debated Mt. Rushmore.


The price of giving up Andrew Wiggins will be an immense one if LBJ and the new Larry Bird fail to deliver. Even without Pauly G, the Pacers will surprise people and be in the thick of the Eastern Conference race for second place. I have to see Derrick Rose play 15 games before I can anoint Chicago the best team in the East.

My sleeper pick for NBA MVP is Anthony Davis.  Can he do 23 and 14 this season? He will need to do that and get the Pelicans into the playoffs to even be considered. 

 

ALEJANDRO DANOIS



I haven’t been this excited about the tip-off of an NBA season since Prince told Apollonia to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka in Purple Rain. Everyone’s hyped about the return of LeBron James to Cleveland, Derrick Rose to Chicago and Kobe Bryant to the Lakers, those are the obvious ones. I’m hyped about the Knicks returning to the playoffs.

The emergence of New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin as the league’s best players right now not named LeBron and Kevin Durant will be thrilling to experience, and I’m anxious to see if Rose can reinsert his name into that discussion while recapturing the magic that led to him being named the youngest MVP ever four years ago.

Keep an eye on the young big men Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins as they look to bring the sexy back to the center position.

With last year’s rookie class being worse than Al Pacino and Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill, I think this rookie class, headlined by Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Napier, Nerlens Noel, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Dante Exum, will prove to be among the most talented the NBA has seen in a decade. Jabari will win the Rookie of the Year Award and Nerlens will be in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Chris Bosh will remind people why he’s one of the NBA’s best players, Russell Westbrook will prove that he can carry a team without KD and Tony Wroten will make you want to watch the Sixers, despite the fact that they’re atrocious. LeBron will join Bill Russell, Kareem and Michael Jordan when he becomes just the fourth player to win five MVP’s.



The Chicago Bulls will beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Spurs will take out the Los Angeles Clippers out west, and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard will celebrate another title.