Oct 28, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
You’re busy, so I’ll save you some time: a championship. They’ve won two straight, basically their entire squad is coming back, and their best guy is the most dynamic and exciting player since Michael Jordan. The Heat have all the tools they need to make a run at a three-peat – but even with them all in place, the bigger question is: who might stop them?
The way I see it, there are 6 teams that could have a chance: 4 longshots and 2 serious threats. Let’s start with the East.
The Bulls: Chicago is a good team without Derrick Rose, and a title contender with (the old) Derrick Rose. But how deep can they go in the postseason? Thing is, Rose’s most recent relevant data points are from 18 months and a horrific knee injury ago. He looked great in the preseason, but it’s far too early to see how his knee will hold up long-term: it’s just been too long since we’ve seen him play a full year. Time will tell, but Rose’s return makes me hesitate – right now, the Bulls are a longshot to stop the Heat.
The Nets: Again, too soon – but for a different reason. The team hinges on Deron Williams and Brook Lopez: a great combo, but Lebron’s supporting cast (Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier – the list goes on) far outstrips its counterparts in Brooklyn. Depth is key, and the Nets don’t have Miami’s lung capacity. As for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, they’re not getting any younger, and I’ll be surprised if their presence tips the scales in the Nets’ favor.
The Pacers: Though summertime roster moves did bolster their bench, Indiana is the only team of these three that remains largely unchanged since nearly beating Miami in the East Finals last year. A missed assignment here, a blown call there, and one or two plays could have made the difference for the Pacers going to the NBA Finals. Paul George and Danny Granger should continue to emerge, Roy Hibbert should continue to dominate (just ask Tyson Chandler), and with C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland the bench is stronger. We’ve actually seen this team play the Heat, and nearly beat them. All in all, in the East the Pacers have the best preseason shot at upending the Heat.
The Spurs: Another team we’ve seen play the Heat and nearly beat them, plus I’ve learned my lesson in the past: never count out Gregg Popovich, and never say Tim Duncan’s too old. Obviously at some point Duncan will be too old, but the man just keeps putting up rock-solid numbers and defense year after year. Besides, he’s not the brains of the operation anyways – Tony Parker’s running point, and Pop’s the reason for the dynasty. History teaches me not to bet against those three pieces, so watch out for the Spurs. (Playoff sweeps are telling – just ask the Grizzlies) Can San Antonio beat the Heat? Maybe – probably not, but they came very close last year and they could likely again be one of the last few standing.
The Rockets: Two words: Dwight Howard. The D’Antoni/Kobe/Dwight circus show was wearing thin in L.A., and it’ll be interesting to see how Dwight fits into the Rocket’s culture. Last year was miserable, and now he’s got a fresh start, a new city, and a great young core with Chandler Parsons and James Harden. But again, we run into a common theme this year: the unknown. Howard alters teams and defenses with his presence, but he’s never played with these guys under this system in this city with this coach and this organization. Signs are positive, but there’s just no way to tell this early – so far it’s all he-said she-said guesswork. Can they beat Miami in seven games? Not right now. So much hype, and to even get there they’d have to move past…
The Thunder: Kevin Durant is a killer, simple as that. He’s the deadliest player not named LeBron James. He has zero conscience from three; he’s Magic Johnson’s awareness with Bob Cousy’s handles and Reggie Miller’s stroke. Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson – their guard play is phenomenal. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins round it out inside, but the key is the guard play. If the Thunder have an advantage over the Heat, it’s depth on the wing. If they can exploit that, throwing bodies at LeBron enough to tire him out and slow him down just enough, OKC could have the best chance to beat the Heat (unless the Pacers get them first, in which case whatever will Sportscenter talk about in June??).
Honorable Mention: Clippers, Warriors. Both electrifying teams, great fun to watch, but missing some pieces. Clippers need a stronger paint presence (DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are a high-flying trapeze act, not game-changing forwards); the Warriors need some time to gel, and for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to play off each other – watch out for Golden State in the next few years.
The Pacers and the Thunder have the best shot at beating the Heat. Indiana nearly beat them last time, and come back this year with more experience and a deeper bench. The Thunder have the guard depth to counter LeBron, but that may not make a difference anyways with the Heat’s top-to-bottom array of weapons.
Bottom line? The Pacers can beat the Heat, as can the Thunder, but it will take each team’s perfect stretch of seven games (because there’s no way the Heat lose in less than seven) to do it. Miami, on the other hand, has the athleticism, depth, leadership, and firepower to win again. That is what to expect from LeBron and the Heat – another championship. They are not a perfect team, and they can be beaten – but in the end, the most likely scenario I see is LeBron & Co. with Miami’s first franchise three-peat.
Dec 19, 2013, 8:33 PM EST
The Pacers had targeted Friday’s nationally televised home contest against the Rockets for Danny Granger to make his season debut, and a week of practice has him on schedule to do just that. Indiana confirmed on Thursday that Granger will be back in the lineup versus Houston, but the team will be easing him in…
Dec 19, 2013, 7:19 PM EST
The news that Kobe Bryant would miss the next six weeks with a fractured bone in his left knee was not only devastating to a team decimated by injuries for the second straight season, but it could have taken an emotional toll on Bryant, as well. The league’s most fiery competitor was sidelined for eight…
Dec 19, 2013, 6:32 PM EST
Ersan Ilyasova has not been himself this season – the guy who averaged 13.2 points a game on 46.2 percent shooting and 44.4 percent from three last season is averaging 8.2 points a game on 38.3 percent shooing this season and 21.6 percent from three. His stats are like that across the board. To use…
Dec 19, 2013, 5:46 PM EST
Not that the Lakers were expecting Steve Nash to return like the cavalry charging over the mountain to save the day, but now we know for sure that is not happening. Steve Nash is going to be out at least another month, he announced to the media on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came at basically…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:32 PM EST
Gregg Popovich is making a habit of tempting fate. First, he confronted Stephen Jackson. Even if that was done in a joking manner – and it was – you can never be certain how Jackson will react. Now, the Spurs coach is challenging another one of the NBA’s most strong-willed figures: David Stern. Both Tim…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:14 PM EST
This is a punch to the gut. For the Lakers. And For Kobe Bryant. Kobe will be out six weeks with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, the Lakers announced. That is the basically the flat part of the top of the shin where it connects to the bottom of…
Dec 19, 2013, 3:12 PM EST
Derrick Rose is loyal. Don’t believe me? Remember when he said he wanted to roll with with Keith Bogans as his two guard rather than recruit other guys to shake up the roster? It’s just who he is. Then came the report out of the New York Daily News (not a local source) that Rose…
Dec 19, 2013, 2:05 PM EST
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.” —Derrick Zoolander This basketball thing is working out pretty well for Chandler Parsons (he is averaging 17.1 points a game for the Rockets, and shooting 41 percent from three), but…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
I genuinely believe there can be “basketball diplomacy.” I think the average person in North Korea is not really different than us — they care about their families, they try to be good to their neighbors, they worry about the future — and sometimes something simple like bonding over a sport together can help bring…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:26 PM EST
Omer Asik may not like it, but he’s staying a Rocket for now. Probably. After weeks of talks — not to mention media and fan speculation — Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has looked at the trade market for Asik and decided it’s not good enough. The Rockets have pulled out of all Asik trade talks…
Dec 19, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
He’s the reigning NBA MVP, won the last two NBA titles, earned the last two the Finals MVPs… And not surprisingly, LeBron James sells a lot of jerseys. The NBA released the top selling jerseys from the start of this season (October through December this year), which includes the holiday buying rush, and not surprisingly…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:36 AM EST
After this play, you just thought it was the Celtics’ night. Turns out not so much (the Pistons came back to win). Still, this was a fantastic execution by the Celtics. With o.2 seconds left on the clock the only way to score was a tip in, and Jared Sullinger rolls to the basket (without…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:20 AM EST
It looks like Michael Jordan will have enough children to form his own basketball team. Jordan’s wife Yvette Prieto is pregnant with twins, reports TMZ. TMZ Sports has learned he’s having IDENTICAL twin girls. Michael’s wife, Yvette Prieto, is pregnant, though we don’t know how far along. They were married in April. Jordan has three…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:52 AM EST
LeBron James didn’t do anything blatent here — he didn’t go for the ball or hit the shooters’ elbow — but make no mistake: He fouled Paul George on the game’s final shot. Despite some protestations of Pacers’ players there was no call and the Heat got a 97-94 win Wednesday night. George did a…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:13 AM EST
Andrea Bargnani made a play near the end of the first overtime session on Wednesday in Milwaukee that was as boneheaded as they come, and could’ve easily cost his desperate Knicks team a much-needed win. After a missed shot by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler tipped out the offensive rebound, which landed in Bargnani’s hands. The…
Dec 19, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
The Jazz won an ugly one against a Magic team playing without Arron Afflalo on Wednesday, and Trey Burke thoroughly outplayed fellow rookie Victor Oladipo in the process. Burke finished with a career high 30 points, while Oladipo managed just three on 1-of-12 shooting in 36 minutes of action. But Orlando likes Oladipo for his…
Dec 19, 2013, 8:45 AM EST
The Heat can be a little nonchalant about the regular season at times, but the Indiana Pacers got their attention. There’s a budding rivalry here (although it lacks someone to really stir the pot) and after the Pacers hot start to the season then win over the Heat eight days before, Miami’s key players showed…
Dec 19, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
The Signature Series takes a look at a play that’s largely unique to one team. Here’s Golden State’s Elevator screen play: The “Elevator” screen is one of the most aesthetically pleasing plays you’ll see in the league, particularly when it’s run by Golden State. That’s in large part because any possession that ends in a…
Dec 19, 2013, 2:23 AM EST
Our quick look around a busy night in the NBA, or what you missed while trying to buy some beer and pay for it with a live alligator… Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat. The last time Wade scored 30 points or more in a game it was Game 4 of the NBA Finals, so it’s been…
Dec 19, 2013, 12:40 AM EST
Kemba Walker just owned the Toronto Raptors. This was his game — 29 points on 18 shots, he could get into the paint or went 5-of-7 from three. Plus, he sank the game winner. The Bobcats had 1 second to get a shot off, the score tied 102-102 at the end of overtime. Walker comes…
- Spurs will rest Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in nationally televised game, Tony Parker also out 20
- Kobe Bryant is out six weeks with fracture in the left knee 55
- Chicago columnist hammers Derrick Rose as no longer humble star 30
- Reports: Houston Rockets pull out of Asik trade talks, will keep him for now 37
- Report: Michael Jordan’s wife pregnant with twin girls 9
- Kobe Bryant is out six weeks with fracture in the left knee (55)
- Report: Heat have interest in Celtics’ Jordan Crawford (50)
- Pau Gasol expresses frustration with D’Antoni offense. Lakers have to think trade. (49)
- Mike D’Antoni to Pau Gasol: “There’s no reason to not play hard” (48)
- LeBron angrily goes after Mario Chalmers on the Heat bench (VIDEO) (42)