Over/Under/In Between


If you thought that Cleveland/Utah game was over…you were wrong. LeBron nails a clutch three only to have Utah inbound it to Deron Williams and watch him go coast to coast and hit a game-winning layup. Already in a week we’ve had more exciting games and finishes than the the entire NBA playoffs and I’m loving every second of it.

What is sparking this post is that today I have participated in a few basketball debates, and they were actually good for once. Not ‘Zach Randolph is an amazing player’ or ‘The Suns are winning the title nothing you say is right’. Instead I’ve got my man from New York telling me the Knicks are back on the rise…which is semi-true. I’m saying the Hornets are extremely underrated…which is true. I’m still trying to convince him how great the Celtics are (which is futile) or that the Heat aren’t entirely done. This is fun. Since when has there been this good of a discussion, I still can’t get over the quality of games being played in the L right now.

Quick thought…it doesn’t matter what Memphis does right now they are stuck in the toughest division on earth. That division alone has arguably three of the top four teams in the NBA in Houston, Dallas and the Spurs. Add the underrated Hornets and you can see why Grizzly fans are going to have to exercise a wee bit of patience.

So here are a few quick thoughts on a few teams. It’s too soon to really praise or condemn anyone but it is about to time to give some sort of assessment. In case you were wondering teams like San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and Utah all get passes because I mean lets face it..it doesn’t really matter what they do in the first 82 games. We all know they’re good, we all know they’re going to be in the mix when it counts. Not much to say about them. Their seasons all depend on playoff success and they are all going there. These might have been teams overrated or underrated by the media or me, I’ll be sure to let you know. It’s always easier to start with…

The Under (rated/appreciated)

Boston: The hype is getting out of hand after three games. Does it make my a hypocrite for saying that as I add to it? Oh well. Blame Coup’s stubbornness and Skip Bayless’ stupidity for this one. I don’t really want to talk about the Big 3, because they aren’t the true key. The Celtics will go as far as the bench takes them. Tony Allen, Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine, Scot Pollard, James Posey. Within those people I just named you have veterans, players that can score, players that can shoot and stretch a defense…did I mention veterans. Doc Rivers job is easy this season: he doesn’t have to worry about effort because KG, Paul and Ray are possessed and will murder any bench player that doesn’t go hard. He doesn’t have to worry about having to teach nearly as much…KG and co. will take caer of most of that. He can’t mess this up.

New Orleans: Despite losing to the scrappy Blazers last night, New Orleans is off to a hot start that few predicted. I’m not quite sure how they slipped in under the radar, they have an elite PG in Chris Paul, a tremendous shooter in Peja and two beasts in West and Chandler. That combined with the scrappiness of Bobby Jackson and the inconsistent stroke of Rasual Butler (he was on my fantasy team I would know) is a recipe for a sleeper team. The injury bug hit everyone last year but it devastates teams like NO and the Lakers. If they stay healthy look out.

Orlando: I’m only putting them here because I believed they would be really really bad. Dwight, Rashard and Hedo are looking to be pretty good. The only thing is Hedo is bound to disappear and I’m not sure Rashard can keep this up. Plus they are lacking a bench to be honest. But since I didn’t see the 4-1 start coming and have belittled the Magic, their fans and their management all summer I’ll be the bigger man and admit my fault. For now.

Atlanta: They did get plenty of hype. Until they can beat someone from their own conference or win a game on the road I’ll have to put them here. They’ve beaten Dallas and Phoenix at home. How many teams get to say that in a season? Especially from the East. It’s early and they’re young but the potential is there. I like that they have gone with Law and Horford in the starting lineup. Marvin Williams is finally making people remember how good he was at UNC. Throw Josh Smith and Joe Johnson in the mix with a little bit of depth and you have a good team. But again they are young and will be up and down all season. Can they get it together and make the playoffs??

Cleveland: Sure they are 2-3. Sure they won’t be nearly as good as last year. But I have to give the Cavs some love here for competing, especially on this early West Coast road trip. For the life of me I do not understand how they managed to do this with 7 guys, two of whom are Devin Brown and Damon Jones. Is their D really THAT great? At the end of the day the Cavs are only going to be as good as LeBron can carry them…and apparently he can carry them pretty far. The man is averaging 27, 9 and 8…damn near a triple-double. The only way the Cavs can compete is if he keeps that up. As improbable as that sounds I know better than to doubt him.

New Jersey: A healthy Richard Jefferson makes all the difference in the world. Vince will eventually wake up for at least 30 games and they still have the greatest PG on earth running the show.

The Young Teams: I’m showing love to Philly, Seattle, Sacramento, Portland, Minnesota and Memphis here. They’re a combined 5-18 but so far they all have been scrappy, they all have been competitive and have been entertaining to watch. When I talk about the improved quality of the league I’m talking these teams. Last year, no one would go out of their way to watch these teams. Last year these teams would be getting blown out. Now it’s close games until the better team finds a way to pull ahead. Seattle may set the record for most close losses in a season. I do wonder what Ron Artest’s return will do to Salmons. If I was Theus, later this season I would go with Miller, Artest, Salmons, Martin and Bibby just to see what happens. Also because as fearless as he is, Francisco Garcia needs to remember he’s Francisco Garcia sometimes.

The In Between

New York: Maybe it’s because I have a New York fanatic chirping in my ear on a near daily basis, but the Knicks might not be that bad. Dare I see halfway fun to watch? Sure they still have next to no defense and no real point guard…but I can see it. Marbury and Crawford combined for 17 assists in the win over Denver, which I thought was impossible. Zach and Curry did what they do best (score and rebound). I thought Randolph’s arrival would push poor David Lee to the end of the bench. Thankfully for Knick fans it hasn’t. If anything, I’d say a little bit of that old Knick swagger is coming back. Did you see the Garden in that Denver game? I can’t fully endorse them for a few reasons. A couple I named earlier, but here are some more Isiah Thomas is their coach, they still have too many shooters and they haven’t faced any adversity. I really feel like this is a team that could be torn apart by a losing streak but I’ve been wrong before.

Indiana: They have proven that they are going to better than most believed they would be (which wasn’t hard) but they also have proven that they are not there yet. Defensively they aren’t very good and their bigs got housed last night by Chris Kaman. While the offense is more open and has opened up the games of Granger, Dunleavy and Tinsley…none of those guys have exactly been the beacon of consistency. Add an injury to Ike Diogu (who was throwing in 10+ from the bench) and you have a team that had early success but may be seeing some struggles in a little bit.

Clippers: I told y
ou they wouldn’t be god-awful. They have too many veterans to be flat-out awful. The only reason I put them here and not the under section is because of the injuries to Cuttino Mobley and Ruben Patterson. The Clippers absolutely cannot afford any injuries, they aren’t that deep of a team. But with Kaman snagging every rebound on earth, Maggette, Thomas and Mobley scoring and the occasional Sam Cassell history lesson…this Clipper team could linger around in 9th or 10th. I won’t listen to the people that dare say they are better without Elton Brand because that is just nonsense.

Lakers: I meant to say this earlier Coup, if you’re still reading: LeBron is better than Kobe. I’ll expand later if you want me to. A healthy Laker team is a semi-dangerous Laker team. Derek Fisher has been a major upgrade at the point over Smush Parker. Fish just makes the smart, easy decision, doesn’t force the issue and knows how to play the game. Smush never really was a PG, that’s why he’s in the doghouse in Miami. The big men are all up and down. Turiaf has been good, Bynum has had flashes and the other two. Yeah. The second unit is showing major improvement and energy. Vujacic moved up in my rankings, so now Earl Watson is the second worst player in the NBA. Seriously PJ just start Ridnour and call it a day. Back to the Lakers, we all know when they’re healthy they can compete. They’ve shown their good sides by almost getting the Rockets and beating the Jazz….and have also shown their bad side in that same Houston game and in the loss to the Hornets.

Golden State: Not really going to fully judge them until Stephen Jackson returns.

Milwaukee: I think apathy is the word here. They lost two road games, they won two home games. They’re about to get hammered by Houston and San Antonio on the road. They seem like they’ll linger just around or below .500 all year. At least the entire nation of China will be watching on Friday. YI VS. YAO I.

The Over

Chicago: They are just playing bad right now. Everyone on their team is which is why its kind of puzzling to wonder if they can turn it around. There isn’t one thing to point too, they just need to pick it up. Something is off, something isn’t right because the Bulls shouldn’t be losing to the Sixers and Clippers at home.

Washington: Kind of like Cleveland…they’re only going as far as Gilbert and co. carry them. Unfortunately Gilbert’s knee is still shaky which means it is him clanking all over the place, Caron and Antawn not doing too much better and the rest of the guys playing like bums. Gilbert will turn it around though, but for now they definitely are overrated.

Toronto: I think everyone forgot when they signed Kapono that he really can’t play too much defense. Can’t write them off because they still have Chris Bosh and depth, but they aren’t playing worth a damn right now. I told you Sam Mitchell was going to mess this up. Remember they did start out horribly last year with the whole ‘Suns of the East’ thing so we’ll see if they can make the adjustment. Right now they just need a tough, garbageman guy who will do the little things. Where is Garbajosa?

Charlotte: I know Felton will be back soon (I hope for fantasy purposes) but the injury bug legit killed any of that playoff talk. Anytime you’re starting Jeff McInnis you know you’re in trouble. Plus Derek Anderson is still getting major minutes. Those might have been my two least favorite Blazers of all-time. Back to the topic..we knew it was going to be a tough year when they lost May and Morrison. We just didn’t know it would be this bad.

Denver: I’m not buying into Skip Bayless’ ‘back to back’ excuse. That performance in Boston was embarrassing, even more embarrassing was letting the Knicks beat you. Two games…both teams scored 119 points. I thought Camby was the Defensive Player of the Year? Coup correctly point out that Denver has their lapses, but they better get out of this one quick because the West is not to be messed with this year. I can’t believe Charles Barkley said this guys were that good.

Miami: There isn’t a team that misses a player as much as the Heat miss D-Wade. He’s probably somewhere rehabbing his knee screaming his last name as loud as possible though.