OK, I think I know how this is going to go….
The No. 2 Heat should run No. 1-2 all season, with no one in the East close to them, pending future developments like a Derrick Rose return. The No. 9 Celtics may once more be dangerous by spring… like last season when they took Miami to Game 7 of the East Finals as a No. 4 seed.
As for the No. 6 Knicks, if they stay unbeaten another week or two, I’ll have to reconsider them.
No one in the West is going to look dominant because no one is going to dominate the conference.
The No. 1 Spurs are still the Spurs, if a year older, although with Tim Duncan as good at 36, averaging 19-10, as he was at 32 when he averaged 19-11, it’s hard to tell.
The No. 3 Grizzlies are still the Grizzlies, or maybe a tad better with Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay both healthy at the same time.
The No. 4 Thunder, apparently, aren’t ready to fall apart on the spot.
The No. 5 Clippers may actually stay up there all season if they can stop anyone.
Then there are the No. 18 Lakers (up from No. 23), under new management with the game’s biggest, most skilled, oldest, slowest starting lineup.
I mean, really new management, not just the usual turnaround with Phil Jackson, who was on his way back until Jerry Buss said, “Why don’t we try someone new, before people forget we existed before we ever hired Phil.”
Buss didn’t actually say it, but I’ll bet it entered into his thinking.
Not that this was a surprise but the word on the lips of every Laker fan–or those still capable of speech—was “W-w-why?”
Aside from Jackson’s 11 titles, he was good with old, slow teams, using his triangle offense to control the tempo.
D’Antoni has always played fast and spread the court. It actually may be good to start some smaller, more athletic role players and bring Pau Gasol, wasted as a starter, off their overmatched bench.
In any case, something’s going to change for someone.
On to the ranks …