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Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 2:46 pm  |  49 responses

Links: An Early Look At The Eastern Conference

Fri-Day! Yes!

by Lang Whitaker

I want to begin today by saying congratulations to Michael Vick, who is now back in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. My favorite team in the NFL is the Atlanta Falcons, but thinking about it last night, Michael Vick is my favorite football player. Mainly because of things like this:

When he was playing for my Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick may not have been the best quarterback in the NFL, but he was by far the most electrifying and exciting QB in the league, and it was thrilling to watch him play each week.

Obviously he made some horrific choices, and then he lied about those choices to everyone who asked. I gave him the benefit of the doubt then, and now that he’s confessed to his crimes and served his penalty, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt one more time. I’ll be cheering for the Falcons this season, but I’ll also be rooting for Mike Vick. Here’s hoping he people of Philadelphia give him a second chance. (He’s apparently off to a rocky start.)

Although, Donovan McNabb has said he’ll mentor him, which I guess means he will take him under his wing and teach Vick how to puke on the field during key moments.

And super Eagles fan Khalid gives his take here, if you haven’t read it already.

• To the NBA…the Orlando Sentinel got a jump-start on their NBA preview by asking a collective of NBA “experts” to predict how the Eastern Conference is going to shake out. I used the quotes around “experts” because somehow I got included in this survey with ten other esteemed NBA brains. The Sentinel averaged together our votes and came up with this ranking for the East.

I haven’t started working on the SLAM NBA Preview yet, and I haven’t really sat down and looked at numbers and rosters and all that, so my rankings were mostly done on feeling and instant analysis. But for the sake of transparency, here’s how I ranked the teams in the Eastern Conference. I’m assuming there are more moves to be made, and I’m sure I’ll change my mind a dozen times between now and the time we drop our NBA preview. Whatever. Here we go…

1. Cleveland — The Cavs with LeBron have always been a better regular season team than Playoff team, and I think that will continue this season. I don’t think adding Shaq will make them that much better in the regular season, but I’m banking on LeBron continuing to improve his game, like he’s done between every season since SLAM took notice of him, back when he was a sophomore in high school.

2. Orlando — The Sentinel asked for a paragraph on the Magic, so here’s what I wrote: “I think losing Hedo Turkoglu is going to hurt the Magic more than they suspected. Vince Carter is a nice replacement, a guy who can create shots at the end of games and is arguably better defensively than Turkoglu, but I think there’s something to be said for the element of surprise the Magic had last season. Now teams are going to be gunning for them every night. Plus, Stan Van Gundy is going to have manage a lot more egos and playing time issues than he did last season.” What I didn’t write: And Stan Van Gundy is not exactly renowned for handling egos and playing time issues with grace.

3. Boston — This is assuming KG is back and healthy, which I guess is still something of a question mark. If he is, him, Rondo, Pierce and Ray Allen will still make Boston the best team in the Northeast Division, by far.

4. Atlanta — What I wrote for the Sentinel: “The Southeast Division is shaping up to be the most competitive division in the Eastern Conference. Washington has depth and a proven coach, and Wade showed he could carry the Heat last season. Atlanta is intriguing because they kept their entire core from last season, plus added a guy who averaged 20 ppg (Jamal Crawford) and finally got a back-up PG (Jeff Teague). More importantly, they’ve finally got stability, something they haven’t had in years.”

5. Washington — I’m not quite sure what to make of the Wizards. Considering they’ve got a lot of really good players and a coach who is at the least capable and will just be beginning his grace period, I think the Wiz could be a nice team in the East. A lot is riding on the health of Gilbert Arenas, as well.

6. Toronto — I’m conflicted about Toronto. I like their roster, like their relative youth. Their coach, not so much, and if things start poorly, will the prospect of Chris Bosh immigrating to the US in the summer of 2010 ruin their season? I think this ranking is best-case scenario. Hey, at least I was feeling optimistic when I sent in these rankings.

7. Chicago — Did they learn anything from their run in the postseason? They’ll miss Ben Gordon, but when you’re able to get the ball into the hands of Derrick Rose more than you were before, that’s probably a good thing.

8. Detroit — I stuck the Pistons in the middle because I’m not sold on this renovation project they’re running. They cleared out all that cap money and brought in two undersized players who were able to inflate their stats playing on teams where they logged a lot of playing time, and I’m not totally convinced the Pistons have enough firepower and depth to hang in the East. I’m also curious about new coach John Kuester, who was referred to as the offensive genius behind the Cavs, though the Cavs just seemed to run clear out after clear out when things mattered.

9. Miami — As presently constructed, with Dwyane Wade and…well, nobody else, really, I think Wade could carry them to a .500 season. But the Southeast Division is going to be tough, and Miami has to add some more players if they want to not only contend in their Division, but also make Wade stick around through 2010.

10. New York — I have no idea what the Knicks are doing, pretending that they’re going to be able to sign LeBron next summer, but in the meantime maybe they’ll eff around and outscore everyone all season. Or not.

11. Philadelphia — They know they don’t have a point guard, right?

12. Milwaukee — I like Milwaukee’s roster, and I think Brandon Jennings is going to be a really good NBA player, but this team has so much youth that it’s going to take a while for them to be competitive.

13. Charlotte — No comment.

14. Indiana — Same.

15. New Jersey — Where Brooklyn at?

So that’s how I’m seeing things. We’ll take a quick run through the West one day next week.

• In other summer hoops news, Linkstigator Justin Adler made his first trip to Rucker on Wednesday night, and he sent me these notes from his experience…

Furious after our great nation’s loss to Mexico, I hopped on a train uptown to watch my first Entertainer’s Basketball Classic game at Rucker Park. The following are my notes from the night.

– The EBC website is a mess and it’s damn near impossible to figure out the EBC schedule. I would have had no clue when the games were if it were not for Peter Robert Casey’s blog.

– My friend and I got there at 7:00, hoping the “TBA” on the site for the men’s league semi-final meant 7ish. We ended up watching the end of the Under-15 championship, a terribly long awards ceremony and then we waited another hour before the park lights were charged, the refs showed up and everyone was ready to play.

– Just before the game tipped off, it’s announced that Brandon Jennings is in attendance. “Holy sh*t,” I thought to myself. This can’t be happening, surely I misheard them and they said “Brandon Jacobs” or somebody else I don’t care about. There is no way my favorite player just happens to be at Rucker the same day I am.

– I feverishly look around the park and I don’t see Brandon Jennings. Then finally the announcer brought Brandon to the court for a quick interview.

Rucker MC: “Let’s bring out my man Brandon Jennings, if he can stop texting on his phone for one minute. ‘LOL. OMG. I’m at Rucker.’”

Jennings: “I played here a few years ago when I was in high school. It was a lotta fun.”

Rucker MC: “Any chance of you suiting up tonight.”

Jennings: “Nah I ain’t playing tonight, but don’t trip I’ll be play here soon.”

– And then the audience ceased tripping.

– The game finally tipped off at 9:10. Prompt the EBC is not.

– It was the Sean Bell All-Stars against the Chris Brown All-Stars. A violent match-up if there ever was one.

– Let’s just get all the puns out now. There was one player named “The Game Killa.” The MC used the phrase “he got murdered” a lot in a basketball context. The same with the phrase “he just got beat.” And there were more than 50 shots taken in the first half.

– I spoke briefly to Jennings and walked away reminding myself again that he’s 19 years old making millions, I’m 22 and earning 4 dollars and change an hour working a sh*tty restaurant job. But hey, I have my college degree and as they say, you can never take that away from me. I probably should have asked, “Why are you in New York? Who the hell do you keep texting? Did you take the train here like a regular human being? Would you be interested in shamelessly buying drinks and trying to help me get laid tonight?” But I thought of all those questions after the fact.

– Back to live action, as the MC said 200 times. The Rucker MC was much funnier than I thought he would be. He was wearing chef pants and shoes and he wore his white apron the entire time. “I just got done making a white lady a fish sandwich and I ran over here,” he said.

– He recognized one of the referees from high school. ”Man, me and you had big dreams in high school, now I’m flipping burgers and your blowing whistles. What happened?” he said. I should note that his delivery on every joke was on point and he did not stop talking once for the entire game.

– The game itself was quite entertaining (hence the league name) and less sloppy than I imagined.

– One of the night’s highlights was a crazy Harlem World denizen (sans his four front teeth) who kept yapping at the MC. The MC owned him many times over, mocking his alcoholism, implying he was a snitch, and declaring that he was going to call his case worker to get him kicked out his apartment. The toothless man responded by taking out his welfare cards and many other government assistance cards I am not familiar with and throwing them on the court.

The MC then started mocking his name, Lawrence Maynard. “Lawrence why are you talking to the police, do I need to remind you that we have the Sean Bell All Stars on the court?”

– Other MC (it wasn’t Duke Tango, I think it might have been Boobie Smooth, but I am not positive) gems:

With 1:23 left in the game: “Ladies. All the ladies in the audience pay close attention. I want you to realize just how long 1:23 is. Maybe then you’ll appreciate me more.” Allows perfect amount of time for laughs. “If your kid is laughing at that joke, then hit him upside the head.”

On it being a 1 point game with 55 seconds remaining: “I’m so nervous right now! I have not been this nervous since I got a white envelope in the mail reading ‘Child Support’ please open immediately.”

On Team Chris Brown being down 4 with 30 seconds left: “Think about Reggie Miller now. Actually don’t think about what Reggie is doing right now.”

– In the end the Sean Bell All Stars won and now have the chance to win back-to-back championships. Even though it was a great guy that went down to the wire, Brandon Jennings did not look up once from his Sidekick.

– The championship game was Thursday according to the website, but the MC said it was Monday night. Ah the greatness of the EBC.

– After the game my friend and I walked on the court. I tried to touch the bottom of the backboard. A huge whiff. “It must be these f*ckin’ jeans,” I said. My friend (also white) tried. Not even close. “It’s these f*ckin’ shoes,” he quipped.

– Then I tried again and got it. I touched the Rucker Park backboard and Sean Bell’s name lives on. USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

• OK, we got the weekend ahead of us. HUGE series between the Braves and Phillies. Otherwise, take it slow, everyone.

Catch you next week…

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  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    The Raptors team looks good on paper. Very good. Here’s to hoping it’ll translate into the games.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    “Even though it was a great guy that went down to the wire, Brandon Jennings did not look up once from his Sidekick.” I think he meant great “game.” Talk about Freudian Slip. Someone must truly have a big man crush on Jennings.

  • knock knock

    such bias. My knock is that the cavs wont be the number 1 team in the EAST this year let alone the nba. Lebron is overrated with the homecooking the cavs get at the q. He literally can average 20ft every game with no one even fouling him. It’s hilarious. -

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  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    The DWade/Heat will make you eat your words and throw up on them.

  • http://www.slamonline.com wayno

    I really don’t think Toronto is that much better then they were last season. I don’t see them in the playoffs. Miami on the other hand will be in the playoffs…D-Wade is gonna will them there like he did last year.

  • JohnK

    I think the rankings start of questionable: “The Cavs with LeBron have always been a better regular season team than Playoff team.”

    This really hasn’t been true, with the possible exception of last year.

  • JohnK

    *off

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    Yeah, co-sign JohnK. Cavs used to turn it up in the playoffs after so-so reg. seasons.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    no john, you were right the first time. and id say the only time his team was better in the playoffs was when they beat a dying, disinterested pistons team. that ebc stuff was funny. indy will make the playoffs!

  • vmcb

    Wayno, if you don’t see how this year’s Raptors are an improved team over last year’s, you haven’t been paying attention.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com wayno

    I didn’t say they haven’t improved, I said I don’t think they’ve improved that much. They’ll be better though.

  • http://dgcoursereview.com Bro D.

    No f’ing way Charlotte is worse than Toronto. I said it.

  • chingy

    the raps have WAY more depth than they did last year…and depth is what made them so good 3 years ago

  • LA Huey

    I wish more people would save time and energy by not commenting on the prospects of bottom feeders.

    I think healthy Boston would be better than Orlando but I doubt Boston will be healthy.

  • Remo Williams

    @Cheryl, how do you eat your words AND throw up on them. it’d make some sense if you threw up first and then eat em.

  • Harlem

    rucker has fell off a bit lately but it still beats kingdom and sometimes even tri state classic imo……….the announcers are great 2,they can make a 5on5 with infants seem entertaining

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Wayno you’re kidding.

  • http://www.sportsoutsider.wordpress.com jumpman3224

    One interesting thing about the east is there may not be much difference between the teams in places 5-11. I think this could be the year the bobcats finally make the playoffs, I think either Miami or the BETcats will take Detroit’s spot.

    Great list tho…can’t wait for the offical season preview

  • realDETROITdude

    Detroit will be ahead of Washington. There offense will blow past the more deffensive teams in the east and will suprise you with there 3point ability just like Orlando last year but I think there deffense will decline slightly this year but if they find a way to get offensive rebounds they will be 4th or 5th

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    The Bobcats will make the playoffs if and only if they get Allen Iverson. Then they’re a sure East team. I hope it happens.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    Witness Protection (BronShaq) dominate the regular season, pillage the playoffs, and destroy in the finals.

  • Jer Boi

    cant wait for the draft lottery! hope the nets get the #1 pick! lol…

  • http://kb24.com Bigi

    Heat 4-6…

  • http://www.slamonline.com wayno

    @ Teddy – Nope…definitely not kidding.

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  • http://slamonline.com 360vue

    11th in the east? nein! iggy will rock it this year 20/6/5/2… and if eb42 is as healthy as he says we should have a real post presence for first time in years.. and cavs wont repeat last year, they got figured in the post season… reckon celtics will be #1, chicago need to be higher up, deng gets knocked for being frail but he will certainly help rose lift them higher. wiz are wildcard, could get 3rd or fail to make playoffs again, hard to tell at this stage, but their loaded with scorers who dont need the ball all that often

  • davidR

    charlotte is ranked way too low. no way they finish 13th

  • Ryan

    You’re sleeping on the Cs. The all-time win record will be in jeopardy this season…

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq

    Brandon Jacobs is actually a bit of a beast.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq

    The Boston Celtics are old. But they scare the hell out of me.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Brandon Jacobs is top 5 running backs in the NFL. The Giants have the best rushing tandem in the league.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Making the playoffs from being like third worst in the league IS a major improvement, wayno.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Toronto now has more firepower than we’ve ever had. But who’s going to rebound? Orlando’s formula worked because Dwight pulls down a good 14 rebounds per 36. Bosh gets 9-ish at best. Who’s gonna step up? Evans? Rasho? Bargs? If the Raps can’t solve this issue, the playoffs are a longshot.

  • Dagger

    “The Cavs with LeBron have always been a better regular season team than Playoff team.”

    You don’t deserve to write about basketball if you think this. Last season was the first season where the Cavs had a great record. And yet they’ve gone far in the playoffs every year they’ve made them with Lebron. Why? They can increase Lebron’s minutes.

    And I’m assuming you know nothing about Jay Triano.

  • dial up

    dagger-

    The number one team in the nba underachieved last year to not make it to the finals. Any other team would get called on that too. They also didn’t make it besides that one injury plagued year to the finals. So, i assure you with their history, they will not make it to the finals this year.

  • ENDS

    Anton I like that name Witness Protection

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ Joel O’s: Correction, Bosh gets 10. He’s a 20 and 10 guy. Evans is a good, scrappy rebounder. Bargnani is going to improve is rebounding too (I HOPE, I mean, a starting 7’0 footer who can score 20 a game and can’t pull down at least 8 boards is kind of sad. I have faith in him though).
    The Raptors are making the playoffs this year, but our main priority should be to develop Demar DeRozan. He needs to start this season.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @Teddy: Right, Bosh gets 10 per game. I was looking at the standardized per-36-minutes statistics. Regarding Bargs, I’m hopeful but not too optimistic; he definitely has the ability to pull down 8 at least. And I’m just as excited as you are about Demar! He’s the aggressive shot maker we’ve been missing since you-know-who skipped town. Triano should definitely start him every game, we’ve really nothing to lose at this point, at least early in the season.

  • http://slamonline.com Jacob J

    1.Boston
    2.Cleveland
    3.Orlando
    4.Hawks
    5.Pistons
    6.Bulls
    7.Heat
    8.Philadelphia

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Tariq Posted: Aug.15 at 5:42 pm
    The Boston Celtics are old. But they scare the hell out of me.
    ___
    So does a zone Defense…
    ___
    I hope INdy are better this season than last.
    I think Philly will drop off as will the Pistons…

  • chintao

    Funny that there is no one sticking-up for the Knicks here… as well they shouldn’t.

  • Orlando Woolridge

    If you’re saying that the Heat have Wade and little else, are you saying Beasley is a bust? I’m not arguing, I’m actually wondering what you think. I just can’t believe that after only one year in the league, the likes of C. Lee get a lot more respect around here than Beasley. Did he really show that poorly last year?

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I think it’s a case of expectation over production – in College Beasley struck me as a “dyed in the wool” workhorse that was going to be an out-and-out star. I think these semtiments are probably shared by most others also. He’s been capable and certainly will stick around in the NBA but there is an “attitude issue” surrounding this guy, built around his work ethic and perhaps that tough-guy image from Memphis (which may be fair or unfairly labelled to him) that I just don’t see it being shaken, probably for the whole time he is in the NBA.

  • jp

    you are all retarded….
    What makes you think Philly makes the playoffs? they wont because they don’t have a point gaurd.
    What makes you think Detroit makes the playoffs? They won’t because they made the most retarded signings of the off-season, Gordon is going to be another AI on that team. Oh, and their Centre is who?? ya Kwame…Playoffs right. lol
    What makes you think Charlotte makes the playoffs? They won’t because Felton sucks and Wallace can NEVER stay healthy, oh and now they add Chandler who can’t stay on the floor either. Why???

    This is how it will be:

    1) Orlando
    2) Cleveland
    3) Boston
    4) Washington
    5) Toronto
    6) Atlanta
    7) Chicago
    8) Miami

    GOOOOOO RAPTORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • NC

    1.Orlando
    2.Cleveland
    3.Boston
    4.Toronto
    5.Atlanta
    6.Chicago
    7.Washington
    8.Detroit

    As Chuck Swirsky would say … book it!

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  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Hi, Lang, Since you haven’t yet taken a comprehensive look at each of the up-to-date rosters in the EC, all you’ve got to do is click on the link to my name and then scroll down to the entry on my blog that reads: “Early look at NBA rosters: Eastern Conference”. Enjoy!

    My apologies for the double post but the URL is incorrect in the first comment above.

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