Thursday, February 21, 2008


hasn't seen anything as fun as the Western Conference since ... ever. Nine teams are at least 11 games over .500. One of them (Denver?), will miss the playoffs. Dallas is four games out of first, and two games away from the lottery(New Jersey would get their pick). Portland is three games over .500 and has zero chance to make the playoffs. Two entire franchises would have to be lost to terrorist attack for Portland to make the playoffs. Golden State, at this moment, is in the lottery. In the East, they would have home court advantage in the first round.

New Orleans ... 37 15
Phoenix ...........37 17
LA Lakers ........37 17
San Antonio ....35 17
Dallas ..............35 19
Utah ................35 19
Houston ..........33 20
Denver ............33 20
Golden State ....32 21

What stands out in this group is that 6 teams have outstanding PGs. A 7th, the Lakers, don't really use a PG. Only two teams have weak PG play: Houston and Denver. It could cost them.

I've now watched two full New Orleans Hornets games: the Hornets are for real. PF David West is long, agile, physical, and can score. West and Tyson Chandler eat up the paint with their length and physicality. Chris Paul never lets them lose composure. It's easy to forsee a day, starting about 2012, when the Hornets and Trailblazers dominate the Western Conference in season after season after season. The rest of the West will be playing for lottery position. The Eastern Conference will be ascendant. The Trailblazers need Brandon Roy's knee to hold up long term.

Here's a thing which ups the fun quotient in the West: the defenses are not so hot. Nuggets defense? Sucks eggs. Golden State? Well, they dang sure defended the Mavs last season; but, really, no. Lakers? Decent. They'll be a good defense next season, when Bynum returns. Suns? Interesting, but not good. Hornets? Too young to really understand playoffs defense. Rockets? Van Gundy is gone. Jazz? Yes. Here is a good defense. Mavs? Hard to say. They might develop themselves just barely into the "good" category. Or not. Dirk is hard to overcome. Spurs? Definitely. The addition of Kurt Thomas is perfect for them. Rarely has a player fit a system better than Kurt Thomas fits San Antonio ... except ... for Pau Gasol, who was put on Earth to play in the triangle offense. Derek Fisher also fits that offense. His return is a solid boost for the Lakers.


Kidd can guard Deron Williams and Baron Davis. Kidd can guard lots of players on individual possessions. When Jason Terry is on the bench, Mavs can defensively switch on screens as often as they want, b/c Kidd is strong and savvy enough to guard taller guys. Against 6'8" types who post him, Kidd gives the Eddie Najera move of releasing back pressure as the pass is entered to his guy, then sliding around the now off-balance opponent and intercepting the pass.

On offense, the presence of Kidd equates to more shots in the paint. This is something the Mavs have desperately needed. Erick Dampier will be a big beneficiary. Dampier has poor hands. Kidd understands where to put the ball so Dampier can catch it. Kidd understands when Dampier has position on his man, and is ready to receive a pass. Devin Harris did not have the court vision to notice this.

Kidd is very aware of loose balls, rebound angles, and passing lanes for steals. On defense, he swipes at opponents' drives and gets referee respect.

Mavs were beaten by 15. It doesn't bother me. A] Hornets are a damn good team. B] the presence of a new player caused defensive breakdowns and confused rotations. That problem will be fixed soon enough. Kidd is a basketball genius, and he will adapt.

Mavs PF Brandon Bass: athletic and physical and effective now. Not afraid of contact. Here's the thing: he's going to get better over the next 2-3 seasons. He's going to start finishing his drives better. He's going to start sinking his nicely released jumper more often. He's going to learn the league better. Bass is going to become really difficult for opponents to deal with. He's going to be a factor. Dick Motta would've loved Brandon Bass. He's a hard-nosed low post player.

If the Mavs stay healthy, they have just as good a chance as anyone in the West. No one has a better chance. Even with the Kidd trade, the Mavs have had much on-court continuity for several seasons. It will help them in crucial moments.

Over the last weeks of the season, I expect the Hornets and the Lakers to come back to the crowd. I expect the best in the West is one of these four: Spurs, Jazz, Suns, Mavs. Injuries will be everything. A twisted ankle in a Game 5 could decide the eventual NBA Champion.

The NBA is experiencing an awesome moment.

Next season, if Bynum recuperates, the Lakers maybe ought to be the favorites in the West.

That said: Shaq, Amare, Diaw, Grant Hill, and Nash. Gawd Almighty.

Crier Duncan, Kurt "First Class" Thomas, Cheater Bowen, Floppy, Tony Parker. I won't bet against the combined power of Spurs + NBA Referees. Their weakness, imo, has been interior defense. Kurt Thomas strengthens that area. With Devin Harris out of the West, Tony Parker is unstoppable(except by Kobe, as Kobe can stop anyone). I saw a hilarious interview in which Parker said he was glad for the Kidd trade, b/c Harris and Diop had been so hard on the Spurs.

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