I mentioned previously that I would begin this post where the last left off, talking some pro hoops. The NBA season is around 10 games old depending on your team's schedule and already intriguing story lines have begun to emerge. If you remember my season wrap up after the Celtics victory in the finals (which I will quote shortly), I said that the Celts and Lakers would continue to dominate this season, with an edge going to LA considering they would see the return of Andrew Bynum. While that has proven true and it wasn't a tough prediction to make, what I said about another team, the Atlanta Hawks, has me swelling with pride at this early stage of the regular season. The Hawks just suffered their first loss of the season the other night to the defending champion Celtics, and that was on a buzzer beater by Paul Pierce at the end of regulation. The Hawks are doing what I thought they would do this year, entering the conversation about the class of the Eastern Conference. Here's what I said about them last June as I discussed Boston's run to the championship:
"Yes, the Celtics had trouble with a less than worthyWell, Al Horford is emerging as that inside help I was speaking of and Bibby is only playing better with an entire summer's worth of training camp and pre-season action under his belt. The Hawks might be the third best team in the East right now. I think it's a little early to start ranking teams but they have to be in the same ballpark as Detroit, Orlando and Cleveland. The Celtics are still the team to be in the East, but the surging Hawks will continue to impress, mark my words. They're no early-season phenomenon and if they are graced with some immunity to the injury bug will be vying for a 2, 3 or 4 seed come playoff time.
team, but in their defense the Hawks came together as a unit in that series, with Mike Bibby providing the glue to a youthful structure that boasts some of the best and brightest that the NBA will see in the coming years. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are a terrific tandem and Bibby and a bit more inside help will have that team poised to replace the Cleveland Cavaliers as the third best team in the East over the next couple of seasons." Atlanta
The NBA's other early season hot topic has to be the trade that the Nuggets and the Pistons made, which sent Chauncey B-B-B-Billups to his home town of Denver and landed Allen "We're talking about practice?" Iverson in Detroit. I'm not sure how I feel about this trade for the Pistons right now, but the Nuggets will definitely benefit from Mr. Big Shot's leadership, defense and toughness. The Enver Nuggets (get it? They don't play "D" in that city!) already lost Marcus Camby, the only player on the team that even attempted to guard anybody, so inserting the strong and defensively solid Billups can only help that team. Throw in the fact that Chauncey didn't get the name Mr. Big Shot for nothing and he seemingly never misses a free throw and you'll see why the Denver faithful might not be missing the Answer for very long.
As for Mr. Iverson's new digs in Detroit, I'm not so sure about this one. The Pistons are a team that has dominated in the Eastern Conference because of defense and a spread-the-wealth mentality on offense, so I'm not quite sure how AI is going to fit in within that system. Iverson has never been a shut-down type of defender and while he is one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen, I'm not sure the amount of shots he is going to take is going to help the Pistons as much as they think. I might be committing a foolish sin here, questioning Joe Dumars' decision making when it comes to personnel, but for some reason this deal has the conspiracy theorist in me working overtime.
Bear with me here. I don't think the Pistons think they can honestly get over the hump and challenge Boston for the Eastern crown in the here and now. I think what Joe D is thinking is that the Big Three in Boston have around two or three quality seasons left together, and then the East is going to start evening out again. That being said, a certain number 23 in Cleveland will be a free-agent after the 2010 season. So if you can hang on to Allen Iverson, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince for a couple of years, pair them with rising stars like Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell and then add LeBron effing James to the mix, you have a team that could beat the stuffing out of any other squad that dared lace up their sneakers. Even if the Pistons lose a couple of the pieces I just mentioned (notice I didn't throw Rasheed Wallace into that mix, because I think he's definitely leaving soon), LeBron and AI together would be unstoppable on their own. That of course is contigent on an aging Iverson sticking around, but this writer has much confidence in Lebron James healing any persisting injuries or lack of passion that Iverson may have at that point. I would almost take the Pistons 4 on 5 against half the Association if AI and King James were together.
I'm such a huge fan of the pro game when it comes to basketball and the early part of this season has not disappointed whatsoever. Can't wait to keep talking about the NBA in the weeks and months to come. So long for now, I have to make it home in time for the Celtics/Nuggets tip.