Here are some random thoughts on the start of the NBA season while I patiently wait for a caller to The Sports Hub to wonder why the Celtics haven't traded Avery Bradley, Jajuan Johnson, Greg Stiemsma, and a first round draft pick to Sacramento for Demarcus Cousins.
The Miami Heat still have to prove their ability to win close games, especially in the playoffs, but they look like the team to beat early in the season. The pressure faced by Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh in their first season as teammates may have forged a toughness that will make them champions in 2012. Their bench has been reinforced by having Udonis Haslem healthy to start the year, the addition of Shane Battier, and rookie Norris Cole who provides them with a quick point guard who can create offense off the dribble.
The Heat also will benefit from the offseason work of head coach Erik Spoelstra. He visited with college coaches Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari but he also took time to visit with football coaches Urban Meyer and Chip Kelly. As Ian Thomsen pointed out in his terrific piece about Spoelstra's trip to watch the Pac 12 and Rose Bowl champions, the Heat want to focus on pushing the pace and spacing the floor to create opportunities for Wade and James to attack the basket.
As you will see below, the Heat are my pick to win the title.
Ricky Rubio's defense may mirror that of the French Army in the Spring of 1940 but that doesn't mean he is not turning heads with his command of the offensive aspects of being a point guard.
Rubio is already a YouTube sensation and his ability to create angles and then deliver a perfect pass for a basket is a beautiful thing to watch. The 21-year-old Spanish sensation has been worth the wait - he was drafted fifth overall in 2009 - so far for the Timberwolves. In six games he is averaging just over 9 points and an even 7 assists per game. Rubio has a long way to go to become a premiere NBA point guard but he already has the makings of a star.
The aging Celtics might not be the favorite in the Eastern Conference but they should still be a factor come playoff time if they stay reasonably healthy.
The "Big 4" of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett are they key to the team's slim championship hopes but they have been bolstered by the promise of a good bench.
After seven games it is quite obvious that Brandon Bass is going to be a Garden favorite. Bass is a good shooter, rebounder, and he plays with energy. He is a better athlete than Glen "Big Baby" Davis, the player he was traded for, and looks like he will be an important part of Doc Rivers' rotation.
Keyon Dooling provides Rondo a valuable backup at the point, has shown the ability to knock down open jump shots, and can defend. Marquis Daniels has returned from last year's neck injury to provide scoring and defense off the bench. Jermaine O'Neal seems healthy at center and if he can play consistent it will be a big help to the front court. Rookie center Greg Stiemsma is not Bill Russell (or is he?) but he plays hard, blocks shots, and can hit open jump shots. Avery Bradley is capable of playing defense on opposing poit guards while rookies Jajuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore look to be at least a year away from contributing. The Celtics are also waiting on Mickael Pietrus' knee to get healthy to provide more depth on the wing off the bench.
The bench will be so important for the Celtics to try and preserve the legs of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett to keep them rested and fresh for the playoffs. The combination of Bass, Dooling, Pietrus (when he returns), Stiemsma, and Daniels should allow Rivers to rest his star veterans in the hope that they have one more title run in them.
1st Team All-NBA
G - Chris Paul, Clippers
G - Dwayne Wade, Heat
F - LeBron James, Heat
F - Kevin Durant, Thunder
C - Dwight Howard, Magic
LeBron James, Heat
Coach of the Year
Frank Vogel, Pacers
Rookie of the Year
Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves
Western Conference Finals
Thunder over Clippers
Eastern Conference Finals
Heat over Celtics
Heat over Thunder