Phife Previews The NBA’s Western Conference
It seems like ever since the Mavs won the 2011 NBA championship, the front office lost it’s luster and hunger for winning, as well as signing above-average ball players. Letting Tyson Chandler sign with the Knicks two seasons ago was the start of a huge downfall. Assuming Deron Williams would leave the Nets and return to his hometown of Dallas, Texas only made things worse.
Now in 2013, a lot of questions must be answered by Mark Cuban & co. Will Dirk get back to where he was in 2011? Is it time to trade him? How will Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon exist in the Maverick backcourt? Will rookies Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo see the light of day under the tutelage of Rick Carlisle? Will Brandan Wright finally show glimpses of what we saw his 1 and only year at UNC?
Time to implode this roster and start from scratch, from the coach to the last man sitting on the bench. I don’t see the chemistry for these guys to compete on a nightly basis. Whatever happens, the Dallas Mavericks will finish 5th in the Southwest.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Just like the beginning of the NFL season, Houston fans had a lot to look forward to. The Texans (on paper) looked like they were well on their way to finally being successful in the postseason. Thanks to the horrible play of QB Matt Schaub and another season-ending injury to defensive stud Brian Cushing, the season seems all but over.
Now with the NBA pre-season done, the Rockets have no excuse not to contend for their 3rd NBA championship. They have a good coach in Kevin McHale, a decent point guard in Jeremy Lin, a top-5 shooting guard in James Harden (if not the best after a healthy Kobe and Wade), a hell of a small forward in Chandler Parsons, and last but not least Dwight Howard, who is arguably the best big man in the league.
Expectations are soaring higher than NASA, and anything less than a Western Conference Finals or Finals appearance will not be tolerated or taken lightly. But be easy H-Town, this, my friends, will be the start of something BIG. The Rockets will finish 1st in the Southwest and take the 1st seed in the West.
Off-Season Grade: A+
San Antonio Spurs
I can still hear former Rockets Coach Rudy Tomjanovich’s voice (from the 1994 Finals win over my Knicks) in my head: “DON’T EVER UNDERESTIMATE THE HEART OF A CHAMPION!” When it comes to the Gregg Poppovich-led San Antonio Spurs, Rudy’s statement rings so true.
Similar to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, you can never count these guys out. The older they get, the better they become (like fine wine) and Tony Parker has matured into the Alamo City’s Tom Brady. Tim Duncan is definitely the greatest power forward to ever lace them up, and Kawhi Leonard has a great future in front of him. Let’s be real: if the Clips, Golden State or Rockets can’t beat the Spurs now, they never will.
Memphis had them on the ropes a few seasons back and knocked the Spurs out of the playoffs, but like a true championship squad, the Spurs rose to the occasion in the following season and battled the Miami Heat to a riveting 7 game series. We all know the outcome to that.
The moral of the story? “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE HEART OF THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS!” They’ll take 2nd in the Southwest, and the 5th seed in the West.
Off-Season Grade: C+
When karma hits you, it hits you hard.
I’m not sure what Memphis was thinking letting Coach Lionel Hollins go. I thought the Nuggets letting go of Coach of the Year George Karl was bad, but this is a hard slap in the face after Hollins led the Grizz to the Western Conference Finals.
The Grizzlies had their best season in franchise history, winning a blistering 56 games in the regular season, and this is the thanks Coach Hollins gets? I’m not saying new coach Dave Joerger won’t be a good coach, but disrespectful is disrespectful.
I love the frontline of Tayshaun Prince, Marc Gasol & Blake Griffin’s best friend Zach “Z-BO” Randolph. Tony Allen’s defense and the steady hand of slept on point guard Mike Conley give the Grizz a chance to win every night. The return of Mike Miller along with Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless solidifies the Memphis bench, but there are a handful of teams in the West that have gotten better.
Unfortunately, only 8 get to dance in the postseason. Memphis will finish 3rd in the Southwest, but still hang on to the 6th seed in the West.
Off-Season Grade: C+
New Orleans Pelicans
I’m not sure what to think of this new name, and yes I heard it’s the Louisiana State bird, but I wish I could turn back the hands of time and take the Jazz name back from Utah (Have you ever heard jazz in Salt Lake City?), the same way Charlotte will get the Hornets name back. I guess Utah can become the Bobcats?
Anyway, if Eric Gordon can stay healthy for one season, this could be the start of something GREAT! With Jrue Holiday coming over from Philly and the smooth and versatile Tyreke Evans leaving Sac-Town, The Pelicans can very well have lots to celebrate other than February’s All-Star game. Anthony Davis will absolutely be a stud in this league, while forward Ryan Anderson continues to shoot lights out.
Does this make Austin Rivers the odd man out, or can Doc’s son provide a huge spark off the bench? The Pelicans will finish 4th in the Southwest, and miss out on the playoffs.
Off-Season Grade: B-
Western Conference Playoff Tree
1. Houston rockets
2. L.A. Clippers
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Golden State Warriors
5. San Antonio Spurs
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. Portland TrailBlazers
8. Denver Nuggets
NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Heat over Bulls
NBA Western Conference Finals
Clippers over Warriors
Heat over Clippers (I hope I’m wrong)!
NBA MVP: Derrick Rose
NBA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
NBA COACH OF THE YEAR: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
NBA SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers