Heisler: 10 Predictions for the 2013-14 Season

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Counting down to the exciting 2013-14 season …crystal ball

And counting, and counting, and counting.

The preseason may be on, but I’m holding the excitement until something happens. By that I mean something bigger than media day, where all involved tell us what they’d like most, as if sitting in Santa Claus’ lap, asking for a pony.

The tipoff is they have media day in Charlotte, and everyone is just as optimistic there.

Personally, I try to measure my (yawn) excitement level, according to the advice of long-time NBA hand and once-again Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, who said, “The preseason has nothing to do with the regular season. And the regular season has nothing to do with the playoffs.”

Pacific Division 2013-14 Team-by-Team Season Previews

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Andrew WigginsAttention Lakers fans: Andrew Wiggins’ first game for Kansas is Oct. 29 against Pittsburg State. A couple weeks later, he goes up against Mike Krzyzewski and Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago.

He could be all yours, Lakers Nation, if the ping-pong balls drop correctly. And pick your own theory about which superstar free agent is going to come running to play alongside him and Kobe Bryant. We have heard all the speculation – everyone from LeBron James (ain’t happening) to Carmelo Anthony (“I’m not going nowhere.”).

As Mark Heisler pointed out in his most recent column, the LeBron talk is Lakers’ management’s way of selling false hopes for the future. You know what this season is about? Two things: Clearing every salary except Steve Nash’s off the cap to get under the luxury repeater tax that would otherwise take effect in 2014-15, and trading Pau Gasol to someone is willing to pony up a package of young players, picks and Eurostash assets. The guess here is it will be Chicago, which has in its trade arsenal Taj Gibson, the rights to Nikola Mirotic and the rights to a future No. 1 pick of the Bobcats.

In the meantime, the Clippers will own El Lay even more than they did before. They will surprise nobody if they flame out in the playoffs against a clearly superior team, as they did the past two postseasons.

But will the Clippers own the division? The thought here is no.

When all is said and done, the Golden State Warriors will be atop the Pacific looking down at their pursuers. Are they championship material? With Andre Iguodala aboard, maybe. With Andrew Bogut 100 percent healthy (OK, stop laughing), maybe even more so. With Harrison Barnes thriving in a sixth man role, something he has never done at any level? That could be the biggest factor of them all. (OK, pardon the mistake. Steph Curry’s ankles are always the primary make-or-break factor).

But we are on the ‘Dubs bandwagon, and we will cure insomnia throughout the winter months by turning on Kings and Suns games. Those will be the West Coast cure for the Sixers, who can make you nod off by 7:26 p.m. ET.

Ladies and gentlemen, the previews:


By Steve Perrin



The Clippers had the third most efficient offense in the NBA last season despite its utter predictability and average 3-point shooting. It is all but certain that offseason changes will improve an already very good offense that will now rival the Heat and Thunder for the league’s best.

The real question is whether Doc Rivers can have success with his strong side defensive pressure schemes with a team of mostly below average individual defenders. But there are tools with which to work.

Perimeter players Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley all have physical limitations on the defensive end, but have basketball IQs off the charts; they won’t be beaten because they blew an assignment or missed a rotation. Meanwhile, Rivers seems sincerely enthused about the possibility of turning Griffin and Jordan into an interior defensive force with their combination of quickness, activity and motor.

The Clippers will score, but whether they stop foes from scoring will ultimately determine how good they can be.




By Jim Park



When the Golden State Warriors made it to the 2013 NBA playoffs for the first time in six years – and just the second time in 19 dreadful years - it appeared the team was finally headed in the right direction. From ownership, management, coaching and the talent level, you could sense that what the Warriors were building was legitimate and lasting. This was going to be more than just another short-lived “We Believe” season.

The Warriors continued in that direction in the offseason by surprisingly making a real run at Dwight Howard. It never came to fruition, but think about that for a second: Dwight Howard actually considered Golden State as a desirable location. In the last two decades, no superstar has ever considered the idea of settling down with the Warriors, and the ones already on the team with the potential to be superstars all wanted to leave.

No longer.

So how did the Warriors build this suddenly respectable reputation and become a desirable destination for superstars and veterans? A lot of it has to do with what happened in the playoffs, and partly due to the charisma of coach Mark Jackson.




By Daniel Buerge



After a season in which they struggled to simply reach the playoffs, things might be even more frustrating for the Lakers in 2014. So before we dive into the upcoming season, a quick look at all the turmoil from a season ago should help make the picture a little clearer.

In 2012-13 the Lakers had some issues. They fired a coach, had half their team miss serious time due to injuries, saw their longtime owner pass away and ultimately got swept in four blowout games against the eventual Western Conference champions in the first round.

Then, to top it all off, they lost their future cornerstone, Dwight Howard, to the Houston Rockets. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very good season.

Now things are even more uncertain. Will the Lakers even manage to reach the seventh or eighth seed this time around without Howard and with a recovering Kobe Bryant (torn Achilles)? Will Mike D’Antoni manage to stick around for the entire season? Will they actually be able to win a game against the Clippers?




By Tony Xypteras



An organization that was once led by the Maloof family, Geoff Petrie and Keith Smart is now in the hands of Vivek Ranadive, GM Pete D’Alessandro, and coach Mike Malone. Thus far, I would say the new regime is off to a somewhat shaky start with plenty of time to improve.

I am lukewarm on the Carl Landry signing. I thought bringing in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was a nice move. Taking control of the Reno Bighorns was an exciting development. Then there was the strange offer to Andre Iguodala that they reportedly pulled off the table about 24 hours later. I’m sure they would agree that situation could have been handled better.

The one move that really could come back to bite the Kings was allowing Tyreke Evans to leave via restricted free agency to the New Orleans Pelicans. I don’t think we have seen the best Evans has to offer, and I blame the old front office and coaching staff for that. Evans had a sneaky good 2012-13 season, shooting a career-high 47.8 percent on a career-low 11.8 shots per game. He was being more selective. He made real progress as a jump shooter. He was finally improving as a player.




By Dave King



The upcoming season is an evaluation campaign for the Phoenix Suns in every respect. They will introduce a new offense designed by former Sun Jeff Hornacek, a new defense spearheaded by Mike Longabardi and at least six new rotation players acquired via the draft and trades by new general manager Ryan McDonough.

With the recent trade of Caron Butler – who never played a game for the team – the Suns have only one player in his 30s: Channing Frye, who is all of 30 and trying to return from a heart ailment.

The only bit of continuity is the vaunted training staff, whose job continues to focus on injury prevention, and the relatively low talent level.

Coming off the second-worst season in franchise history, the rebuilding Suns are projected to be the worst team in the Western Conference. Again.



Evening News: Shaq buys piece of Kings; NBA and union far apart on HGH testing; Arenas chooses family over NBA

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In today’s news, Shaquille O’Neal has purchased a stake in the Kings’ new ownership group, the NBA and player’s union remain far apart in discussions for HGH testing reform, and Gilbert Arenas will head back to China rather than audition for the Clippers in training camp. 

Evening News: Kobe progressing nicely; Knicks-Nets rivalry heating up; Dirk off to a healthy start

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In today’s NBA news, Kobe Bryant is healing nicely from his torn Achilles, the Knicks-Nets rivalry is quickly gaining steam, and Dirk Nowitzki looks to be healthy heading into training camp.

Black Mamba right on track

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant has been running at 75 percent of his body weight on Kobe-Bryanta treadmill, and looks to be a few weeks away from advancing to full-weight bearing running.

This is music to the ears of all Lakers’ fans, as it sounds as though Bryant’s rehab is going according to plan.

It will still remain to be seen, however,  if the Black Mamba will be able to suit up opening night when his Lakers host the rival Clippers at Staples Center.

“He’s doing well and has had no setbacks,” Lakers’ head athletic trainer Gary Vuitti said on Thursday, “He’ll be ready when he’s ready. Nobody has a crystal ball on this thing.” he later added.

It appears that we will not find out the true timetable on Bryant until deep into training camp, but it is safe to say that even if he’s  not ready to play in the opener, that he will be ready sometime shortly after that.

Kobe, who will be entering his 18th season as a pro, will look to repeat the monstrous season he had last year, when he averaged 27 points on 46% shootin, to go along with six assists and just over five rebounds. “Vino”, as they call him, truly does get better with age. If healthy, Kobe and his Lakers will most likely compete for one of the bottom three playoff spots in the loaded Western Conference.

To see just how well the boys in purple and gold will fare this season, check out our preview.

Battle for NY heating up

The Knicks-Nets rivalry just got a whole lot more personal. A war of words has broken out between Brooklyn Nets’ newly acquired forward Paul Pierce, and New York Knicks’ dynamic shooting guard, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R Smith.

ESPN.com is reporting that the two have been jawing at each since the summer when Pierce said “it was time for the Nets to start running New York City”

Smith then responded: ”I just look at him as a bitter person just getting out of Boston. He doesn’t really know what New York is all about. He’s been playing in Boston his whole career,” he then added:  “He just knows, just know that his words have consequences and he’s going to have to pay for them.”

Pierce did not take these comments very seriously when he was asked about it, as he would go on to say:Paul Pierce

“Who? Exactly. Who? Who are we talking about right now? Exactly. Who are we talking about? We are talking about nothing.”

Can you feel the tension starting to mount? Surely both teams will use these quotes as bulletin board material when they play each-other this year.

The first scheduled game between the two is set for December 5th, in Brooklyn. Whatever you do, make sure you’re in front of a TV that night — even if Smith isn’t playing. Remember, he still must serve a five-game drug suspension after he is cleared to play.

Check here to see our Knicks and Nets season outlooks.

Dirk’s health looking great early

According to the Dallas Morning News, Dirk Nowitzki looks to be fully healthy entering training camp this season, he’s even been playing 5-on-5 with some of his teammates, which is something he hasn’t done in years.

His Mavericks will have a lot of new faces this season, as the team signed free-agent guards Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon in the offseason.

The offense will still undoubtedly run through Dirk, but he will definitely have a nice supporting cast surrounding him. Health was a220px-DirkNowitzki big problem last year for the 7-foot German, as he missed 29 games due to various injuries.

Head coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t seem to think Dirk will have any trouble meshing with his new teammates:

“Dirk is going to benefit from having guys like Monta (Ellis) and Jose (Calderon) around him and those guys will benefit from Dirk, too,” Carlisle said, “Dirk’s been very consistent on the fact that he’s down with anything that gets us winning more games and back to being one of those teams that has a chance. With this group, I think we have an opportunity to get there.”

Optimism is starting to grow in Dallas as the new season approaches, and if healthy, they could be a playoff team in the wild west this year.

To read our outlook on the Mavs, click here






SH Blog: How Important Are Kobe’s Offseason Workouts? Andrew Bynum Could Miss Training Camp; Gilbert Arenas Could Workout For Clippers


kobeinjuryThe separation between talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel.

In life and in sports.

Either way, talent is natural. You either have it or you don’t.

Skill is different. Skill can only be developed by hours and hours of working on your craft.

Hours. And hours. And hours.

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