UPDATE: Ohhhhhhhhhh no. Being the jinx that I am, as soon as I posted that the Magic would win the Southeast it comes out that Tony Battie has a torn rotator cuff!
All I can say is: "Stan and Otis, you mentioned that you wanted to play "small ball" with Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. It would appear your chance has come."
All we, as Magic fans, can hope for is getting Chris Webber for cheap or trading for someone like Kirilenko (doubtful).
SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE PREVIEW
Since tomorrow is going to be a bit nuts for me, and since the NBA is only a month away, I thought it seemed like a good time to kick off the big NBA season preview! Where else would I start, but the Magic's own Southeast division.
Before I start, I should point out that according to Brian Schmitz's Orlando Magic blog, the Sporting News has come out with its NBA preview. As many of you already know, the Sporting News is one of the few publications I put a lot of stock in. Their writers usually are accomplished, and they aren't awful homers like Bill Simmons or...well...me. I was greatly looking forward to seeing how they rated the offseason moves and how the teams would stack up this upcoming season.
Well, let's cut the suspense short: They see the Magic as the second best team in the Southeast conference, after the Wizards. The Heat ranked a close third behind us with the Bobcats and Hawks following up. Even the crap publications seem to have the same thing.
This got me thinking about how our team stacked up in the grand scheme of things in the Southeast (otherwise known as the 'wait...the Hawks and Bobcats are in the division?' division). Here is how I see it goin' down:
PREDICTED SOUTHEAST DIVISION STANDINGS:
1) Orlando Magic
Yes, yes, yes. Call me a homer. Call me blind. Call me anything you would like, but the fact of the matter is that the Magic (with their hiring of Stan Van Gundy and signings of Rashard Lewis, Adonal Foyle, and Marcin Gortat) have improved the makeup of their team more than any other team in the Southeast this offseason. On top of that, they don't have age concerns and their outgoing players were either chronically injured (Hill) or backups (Darko) last season. Not too shabby. Last year only 4 games seperated the top team in the division from the 3rd best team, so such improvement to the roster and coaching of the team is significant. Toss in the fact that the offensive system is changing to suit the younger players better, Grant Hill being gone allows the team can achieve continuity and familiarity on offense (without having to worry if he is healthy), and the lofty expectations and you have a team that will narrowly edge out the competition this season. Now I will retire to my castle before you storm it with pitchforks.
They say to predict the future you look to the past. Well, if that's any indication then the Wizards will be sitting atop the division. This team was surging last year behind Gilbert Arenas and only came back to earth when he got injured. The problem is that the team sat on their hands this offseason while other teams in their divisions made a splash in the market. Gilbert and company will still be a force to be reckoned with, but with Arenas getting his body back in shape following a season-ending injury, the big man situation looking increasingly iffy, and a franchise biting its fingernails to hope Agent Zero returns next season this is by no means an invincible team. Don't get me wrong, they will be really good, make the playoffs, and contend early...but I see them waning as their season progresses and other improved teams like Boston, Orlando, and Charlotte start to gel. This one will come down to the wire between the Wiz and Magic.
This prediction could still change drastically because the Heat are scrambling to make a move before training camp opens. I threw a Barry Bonds asterisk on it because depending on who they get they could jump up the standings. For now, they are what they are, in Popeye terms: A team build around Dwayne Wade, with a nursing home of players around him. I maintain that this is one of the more fun teams to watch simply because of Antoine "Black Brando" Walker. Antoine's inability to dribble, shoot, and (at times) clutch the ball into his hands without throwing it wildly out of bounds is one of my favorite things about the NBA. He is like the Charlie Brown of the league, and it is only a matter of time before D.Wade and Shaq hold him down and beat him with soap like that guy in Full Metal Jacket.
This franchise could win multiple championships, reinvent the NBA, become "America's team" and I will STILL laugh about how silly their logo and colors are. -And I'm a Marlins fan! This team improved significantly with the acquisition of Jason Richardson and seem to be pointed in the right direction under Michael Jordan (I know, I can't believe I typed that either). They still have a ways to go since they finished 16 games under .500 last year, but no doubt they will be poised to play giant-killer to lot of teams expecting last years' Bobcats. Sam Vincent could sleep through all of the games and they still would probably improve their record by 7 games. I salute Vincent for being this year's "guy who is going to be at the right place at the right time" with Doc Rivers following closely behind.
Josh Smith and Joe Johnson might as well be on a deserted island. -At least on a deserted island they could get some help from coconuts. This franchise absolutely loves drafting Power Forwards, and although getting Al Horford in this past year's draft was a smart move, it showed the world that Atlanta regrets getting Sheldon Williams the year before. Acie Law is still probably going to need time to get up to speed, so this team is almost certainly going to be relegated to the lottery again. On the bright side, they got shiny new uniforms which (despite what people say) are more often than not good for team morale. The logo, on the other hand, is crummy and they should just change it to the secondary logo that looks like a cardinal.
That's it for now. More NBA preview fun in the weeks to come. Tomorrow is going to be something of an extended weekend for me, so no new posts until Monday. I'll update if anything major happens (KEEP THAT BROKEN HAND HEALTHY, REDICK!).
Have a great weekend everyone.