by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

In the SLAM NBA Preview issue that came out back in October, I picked the Lakers and the Magic to advance to the NBA Finals. I went with the Lakers because they’re the two-time champs, they’re returning the same team that won last season’s title, and they improved their team by adding Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. Picking the Magic was a swing in the dark. I figured Miami was going to need a season to hit their groove and get enough players to seriously contend for a title, which left Boston and Orlando at the top of the heap. And as close as Boston was to beating the Lakers in the Finals, I thought this was going to be a breakout year for Dwight Howard, so I went with Orlando.

Well, since then Orlando’s tried to flip their roster, and while Dwight’s averaging a career-best 22.4 ppg, he’s not getting much help otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Celts have looked like world-beaters. Maybe this is poor timing to write about how good they look, considering the Celts—who were terribly shorthanded—lost to the BETcats the other night. Yes, I picked Orlando, but right now I think the East is Boston’s to lose. The one area where Boston doesn’t seem to be that deep is on the wings, especially now with Marquis Daniels out. And while Miami seems like they could attack Boston from the wings with Bron and Wade, Boston is so strong up the middle, I don’t know that any teams out East have enough size and depth to knock off the Celts.

And then there’s Chicago. Haven’t mentioned them yet, but they’re a very real 34-16. They’re much better at home (23-4) than on the road (11-12), and they haven’t really had an entirely healthy roster all season. Out of the top five teams in the East (BOS, MIA, CHI, ATL, MIA), the Bulls are the one team I feel like I don’t really understand just yet.

Anway, Sekou and I talked a lot about the Eastern Conference on this week’s Hangtime Podcast. As far as guests, we spoke with ATL’s Jamal Crawford, Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer and NBA Entertainment’s David Thomas, who helped put together the Kobe Top 10 video clips that have been running on NBA.com.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here…

You can download the podcast here, or you can subscribe via iTunes here.

• I feel like I should point out that last week I gave my All-Star reserve picks a day before the official selections were announced. AND I PICKED ALL 15 REPLACEMENT PLAYERS CORRECTLY. Yeah, I did flip Duncan and Love, but all 15 of the guys I picked made the All-Star Game. What does this mean? Well, not much, I suppose. Just that I control the minds of NBA coaches.

• Speaking of superpowers, according to a recent poll, here are the superpowers most Americans would want, in this order…
1. Time travel and mind reading (tie)
3. Flying
4. Teleportation
5. Invisibility

Nobody asked me for my vote, but here’s how I would have voted:
5. Teleporting and time-travel (tie) — I’ll explain why these are last momentarily.

3. Mind reading — I would think this is a power for people who are insecure. You talk to people, you want to know what they’re thinking about you, you read their mind. “Oh, hey, this guy secretly thinks I’m a jerk!” Great. Or you can find out that the woman sitting across from you on the subway and listening to her iPod is secretly thinking about that time she got a zit on her forehead. Wow.

This just seems like a really lame superpower. I suppose you could want to have this superpower for nefarious reasons. Like, so you could find out what company is about to introduce a product that could make you a lot of money. Or so you could run for office and read your opponent’s mind and make him sound like an idiot during a debate or something. But if you’re going to use a superpower for nefarious reasons, mind reading seems limited.

(We should also probably just allow that almost any super power would have to be used for nefarious reasons in order to get the most appreciation out of it. Maybe you could steal from bad people or something, but it’s still stealing. Or you could dedicate yourself to using the power for good, but then you’d have to work a job and live in a crummy place, like Superman or Spiderman. Either that or be independently wealthy, like Batman. And I already know at this point in my life that’s not going to happen.)

2. Invisibility — Spying would be the main advantage of invisibility. And while spying (on meetings, enemies, etc.) would have certain advantages, it again feels like it would be a rather limited power to have.

1. Flying — First of all, disregarding effectiveness, out of the options presented in this poll, flying would definitely be the *coolest* superpower to have. Imagine talking to someone and then just shooting up into the air and flying away. Can’t get a ticket to the Superbowl? How about I fly into the stadium and hover over the field?

I listed teleporting and time-travel last because I think having the ability to fly would basically render both irrelevant. If you want teleporting to use as a travel tool, that’s extremely short-sighted, because what are you going to save, thirty minutes commuting to and from work? And what would you do with that extra half-hour, play PS3? Teleporting might allow you to be able to zip in and out of a vault, but you’d still be visible on security cameras. Then again, no jail could hold you, I suppose.

And flying would also render time travel extraneous because if you could fly you could just do like Superman and fly around the world really fast and speed up or slow down the earth’s rotation and go back or go forward into time. In that way you could find out who wins sporting events or lottery numbers and make a fortune.

Flying would also be a good way to make an honest living, perhaps by appearing in a Vegas stage show or traveling around in the circus. You could be the greatest stuntman of all time or star in your own reality show. Or heck, play in the NBA and just dunk on people on every play.

This story cracked me up. I can just imagine an army of old people with walkie-talkiessneaking around and making sure basketball players go to class. This would be a great movie.

• Peja Stojakovic considers himself “quite the dancer” apparently?

• This Peter Vecsey interview with Blake Griffin is really good.

• Finally, I thought this was hilarious…