Quick hits from the NBA thus far
Yup, we’re just two games into the season for the Celtics. I don’t care, I’m ready to make absurdly early judgments on the team and its place in the NBA’s upper echelon.
*The Celtics are the favorites in the East. The Magic are my number two, and the Cavs are third. No one else scares me in a playoff series. Toronto, Washington, and Atlanta ought to be in the next level, with Philly threatening if they play the right lineup (Elton Brand at center, more Marreese Speights and less Samuel Dalembert). I don’t know of any other really interesting teams other than Chicago, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see anything from the Bulls this year.
*The Lakers and Spurs will face off in the Western Conference Finals if there’s any justice in this world (OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration). But, the Spurs are as stacked as the Celtics. They reloaded at an even more furious clip than Boston did this summer, and they dispatched the Hornets last night by 17 points with 10 guys playing about 24 minutes each. Think about that.
*I count five elite teams in the NBA, more than we’ve grown accustomed to, which is a good thing. The Celtics, Magic, and Cavs (once they make some trades and get the roster set up by the end of the season) on the best coast and the Spurs and Lakers on the west coast. The Nuggets are on the fringe, but I’m not a believer at this point. They’re about as good as the Cavs will be come playoff time, but the LeBron factor makes Cleveland matter, while ’Melo doesn’t do the same for Denver yet, if ever.
*The Magic are stacked. Orlando has good players EVERYWHERE. Even without Rashard Lewis I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start out 9-1 or 10-0. The race for the top seed in the East will be epic, with both the Celtics and Magic aiming for 70 wins. This should be fun. I hope Rasheed Wallace is right and the C’s push for the wins record ... with a caveat that they do it while playing the starters between 30 and 32 minutes per game. Doc Rivers played Ray Allen a whopping 38 minutes last night while Larry Birding the Bobcats (+33). That’s after Mr. Shuttlesworth played 42 minutes in a hard-fought win against the Cavs the night before on the road. This perplexes me, and suggests a trade for a better shooting guard to back up Ray might be needed to convince Doc to take him out of the game once in a while.