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Thoughts on the NBA Eastern Conference

I really love the NBA, but this year is the most excited that I have been for the start of the season in a long time. Over the past few years, I have been transitioning from watching a nice mix of college and NBA basketball to mostly watching the NBA. When conference play starts at the college level, I go back and watch a mix of games. On a night in and night out basis, NBA players are bringing their top games. The competition between the top stars is fun to watch. I already broke down the Hawks in previous columns, but here are some thoughts on the two conferences.

Eastern Conference…5 things I already know a few days into the season...

1. Lebron James is the most exciting player in the NBA. No one else can physically do the things that King James does. The dunks that James had in the Cavaliers game versus Charlotte on Thursday were incredible. James plays with passion and energy every night. I like what the Cavaliers have done around him this year. Mo Williams gives them another guy that can score. It looks like Daniel Ewing is ready to be a factor. What will they get out of Ilgauskas? Other guys I like are J.J. Hickson, Aleksandr Pavlovic, and Anderson Varejao. Last year during his holdout, the Cavs missed Varejao and his hair. He is solid in the pick and roll and he plays defense. Plus, you do not have to run any plays for him. Varejao is a very valuable piece around Lebron. This team is a legitimate Eastern Conference contender. If James can take over games against the upper echelon teams on the defensive end and rebound better, the Cavs can get back to the NBA Finals.

2. Toronto’s front line is scary. Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh are a dynamic duo. Bosh is still the man, but the great thing for Bosh is that O’Neal is a legitimate low post presence. O’Neal can run to the left block and set up shop. That allows Bosh to work on the perimeter in the high post area. When the offense runs through O’Neal, the key will be whether he will pass the basketball out of double teams for easy baskets. Jose Calderon is an underrated point guard. He can push the ball and walk it up and get the Raptors into set plays.

3. Dwayne Wade is healthy and the Heat are a very intriguing team. Last night, the Miami Heat flew up and down the court in their home opener. Dwayne Wade is in my favorite five NBA players. I have been a convert since his rookie year when the Heat made that playoff run with Wade, Stan Van Gundy, Lamar Odom and crew. Defensively, Wade is always in passing lanes and making plays. Offensively, his jump shot has improved and he looks like he is back to attacking the basket. The best part of his game is his unselfishness. He does not have to manipulate the basketball to make the team better. Michael Beasley is smaller than I thought, but he is very creative on the offensive end. He made a great move the other night to score with his right hand. He will score but can he stop anyone. There are two question marks for the Heat. The first is new head coach Erik Spoelstra. He is an NBA veteran and has respect, but the NBA often comes down to calls made in the last minutes of the game. What does Spoelstra bring to the table? My other concern would be how does Shawn Marion play as a potential free agent? The risk of injury has to be in his mind. Plus, he is again the 3rd name on this team. Marion is a force on the defensive end and can guard virtually anyone, but does he play hard enough for the Heat this year.

4. The Boston Celtics are better than last season! They blew out the Chicago Bulls last night without much trouble. When the camera kept cutting away to the Celtics’ bench in the 4th quarter, they looked more like a team than any NBA team in a long time. All the starters were still in to the game in a positive way. They were cheering for each other. Garnett is probably my favorite NBA player. He really is the heart and soul of the team. Pierce is their most important offensive player, but Garnett is the guy that keeps everyone in line. He is the guy the other guys do not want to let down. Sometimes, winning a championship leads to complacency and guys looking to make big money, but sometimes winning championships brings teams closer together and makes them an even better team. If they stay healthy, this team is going to be there at the very end of the season. Just think Hawks’ fans, if Bibby were healthy, the Hawks could have beaten this team!

5. The Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks are in under different types of media spotlight. Do not count out the Pistons. They have a great mix of veteran players and up and coming stars. The core group is still playing well and Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell are emerging stars. But, how will they react to really getting hardly any media attention? The Pistons are flying way under the radar. The Knicks on the other hand probably will not make the playoffs this year, but they are going to be in the media spotlight. Until the Knicks decide what to do with Marbury, they are going to have questions. Under new coach Mike D’Antoni they are going to be more competitive and win over 30 games, but can they get any value for Marbury? The Eddy Curry situation is murkier. Curry can probably help them in limited minutes, but does he even want to. I am wondering about this guy’s heart—in a literal and figurative sense. I would not be surprised to see Curry have to retire or something because of his heart. Until he proves to D’Antoni that he can run the floor, come out on the floor and set high screen and rolls, and rebound consistently, Curry will be seeing a ton of DNP Coach’s Decision.


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