Chomping at the Bit- The Indiana Pacers
Kudos to Pacer management for overhauling a team that suffered through the malice at the Palace. The team’s culture has been re vamped and what we have now is a culture that is both professional and serious. Big credit to Larry Bird and to basketball lifer Donnie Walsh. Solid player selection and incremental development led to the eastern conference power that the Pacers have become. The team, as tough mentally as they are physically have played the Miami Heat almost even in successive seasons. Pacers brass have seemingly discovered that precarious balance between talent and character exemplified in the selection of players like Paul ( on the edge of super stardom ) George and Roy Hibbert.
Adding David West to a nucleus of Hibbert, George and a returning Danny Granger was the right move at the right time. Guards George Hill and Lance Stephenson provide stellar defense and open court play on offense. In one of the best moves of the off season the Pacers acquired Luis Scola to shore up a bench sorely in need of shoring up. The Argentinian is extremely skilled, savvy and an excellent passer to boot. It also looks like C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland have finally found homes. This team is tough, very very tough and a title could be in the offing if only it weren’t for…….
The Pacers are young talented and hungry but the only edge and I mean( razor thin) that the Heat had over them was experience, and some cat named Lebron. The Pacers pride themselves on a brand of basketball they affectionately call smash-mouth. However the Heat and that “Art of War student, Pat Riley have successfully used the Pacers aggression against them. In successive seasons the Pacers have succumbed to well planned and thought out hard fouls by the Heat that have served to keep an inexperienced Pacer team off balance. Technically the Pacers guards have to do a better job in the half court in terms of penetration,decision making and ball distribution. In George Hill and C.J. Watson the Pacers have essentially the same player. Going forward though, with experience, chemistry and the growth of Paul George some of the most deserving fans in all of sports may get what they have been waiting for.
The Contenders- Miami Heat
Whoa, slow it down big fella. Who would list the Heat as second place finishers the season after winning the title ? Yours truly.
They don’t always get the recognition they deserve but Miami boast one of the top organizations in sports. At the helm as always is team president Pat Riley and his clone; head coach Eric Spoelstra. Miami has managed mostly through free agency to surround their star players with an almost perfect compliment of supporting players. Bringing in Chris Andersen and Ray Allen were key in winning their second straight title. Management has created an environment that is as polished and professional as a fortune five hundred company. ( Playing near South Beach is a big plus ). Players around the league relish the chance to play in Miami.
It is well chronicled that the Heat are small but they cover their weaknesses with a relentless swarming defense that picks it’s spots as to when to deploy their half court traps. The big three of Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are still formidable and have bonded well through the years. Hall of Famer Ray Allen knows what he’s doing and still has ammo left in the holster. A little discussed aspect is the veritable stable of three point shooters on this roster, easily the best in the league.
The Heat are poised patient and aggressive. Sight seen; the team was beaten in the closing seconds of game five against San Antonio. The players, all of them were hanging their heads with one exception, Lebron who was picking guys up and reminding them that the series wasn’t over. That, my friend is leadership. It won’t however be enough to carry a team that is still small, aging and susceptible to consistent dribble penetration. In a season to remember this proud team will not go down without a fight but they will eventually go down.
Not your fathers NBA preview.
This preview / power ranking will high-lite the top three teams in each conference along with a mention of the up and coming teams in their respective conferences. Factors such as an increase in talent, better team management, the new CBA and shall I say it, strong stewardship from the commissioner have set this season up as one of the best in years.
So with out further ado.
The Eastern Conference:
Alpha Dog- The Chicago Bulls
These are lofty expectations for a team that lost to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. One must keep in mind that this Bulls team is one that is battle tested and as cohesive as any team in the league.
Consider: 1. Management-
The Bulls were correct to plan out for this season given the injury
to their best player Derrick Rose. The team proved that they were elite even
without Derrick and for long stretches Loul Deng. The Bulls then drafted a better
shooting version of Jimmy Butler in Tony Snell and validated the selection of
Marcus Teague who’s steady development was borne out in an excellent summer
league. Lastly the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as coach was dam near genius.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but the Bulls core players are entering their Prime’s
and are better collectively than they are as individuals. Jimmy Butler as the new
starting two guard is turning into one of most mentally tough players in the
league and is still growing as a player. At some point we all have consider the
awesome possibility that Derrick Rose could actually improve….Nuff said.
The addition of Kirk Heinrich and the development of Marquis Teague
will allow Rose the opportunity to rest on the floor and save his strength for
fourth quarters. The window for the Chicago Bulls is now open and the
players more than anyone realize this and are ready to take the next step.