Links: Two Eastern Conference Darkhorses…

by September 17, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

Wasn’t planning on posting much this week at all, because I’m responsible for writing about 14 pages worth of text for the NBA Preview issue of SLAM, which we’re busily working on now. One of those things I’m working on is the actual NBA Preview, so I’m spending this week immersed in the internet, reading everything I can about every team in the NBA.

The last thing I read before typing up The Links was this article in the Miami Herald about the Heat, who, I’m sorry to say, I think aren’t going to be very good this year. Just check out their roster. You got Wade, Marion, Beasley…and what?

Check out that amazing point guard rotation (featuring shooting guard Mario “Weeds” Chalmers, plus Blake Ahearn, Chris Quinn and Marcus Banks) and center crew (Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, David Padgett and, you better believe it, Mark Blount).

Factor in a new coach, who could either be great or terrible over an 82 game schedule. Dwyane Wade, who looked healthy this summer but has averaged less than 60 games a season over the last three years (most of that with Shaq to prevent as many double teams on Dwyane). Shawn Marion, who hasn’t been happy playing on the shot-happy Phoenix Suns and is in a contract year, so he’ll be complaining about that all season. And you’ve got Michael Beasley, who can’t seem to avoid drama
even after leaving college. It seems to me that all the signs are there that the Heat aren’t going to be a lot better than they were last year.

Anyway, the story by the Herald says…

The Heat has a nice blend of youth and veterans, and a deeper bench. Questions remain at point guard and center, but overall the Heat added several players while making future salary cap space a priority. A healthy Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion and Udonis Haslem, coupled with what appears to have been a solid draft and several free-agent acquisitions should make Miami a playoff team.

Love that: A “nice” blend of youth and veterans. Well, that’s one way of saying it. And which free agent acquisitions will make them a Playoff team? They signed Chris Quinn on 9/11. (Just saying.) They also re-signed Dorrell Wright and went out and signed the highly coveted Jamaal Magloire. Some shrewd deals there.

So are the Heat a Playoff team? No. I’m thinking (and this is off the top of my head and in no particular order) that Boston, Toronto, Philly, Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, Washington, Atlanta and possibly Milwaukee or Charlotte are the best teams in the East.

Yes, I said Milwaukee and Charlotte. Nobody’s talking about Milwaukee, but they’re stacked with pretty good players. Check out this possible rotation…
C: Bogut // Elson // Gadzuric
PF: Villanueva // Elson // Mbah a Moute
SF: Richard Jefferson // Adrian Griffin
SG: Redd // Damon Jones
PG: Ridnour // Sessions // Tyronn Lue
And that leaves out Charlie Bell, Malik Allen and Awvee Storey. They’ve got scoring, shooting and rebounding, and Skiles will force them to defend.

But the kicker for me is that this is Scott Skiles’ first year coaching in Milwaukee, which means the players will actually listen to him and play hard. If this was his third or fourth year, forget it — they’d tune him out like he was their wifey asking them to take out the trash.

And the other team I think people might be underestimating is the BETcats. They’re finally mostly healthy, and they’ve also got a nice collection of young, athletic players.

But mostly, I’m betting here on Larry Brown, because the whole world wrote him off after his run with USA Basketball and the Knicks, and it would be so Larry Brown for him to surprise everyone and put together a good year in Charlotte. (I know: Betting on Larry Brown is probably like buying shares of Lehman Bros. right now, but still…)

And if you missed this on our home page, Gilbert Arenas says he’s out for the first 15 games of the season. Washington will still be good without him, but if they want to be great they need him 100 percent healthy.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m not going to write about the NBA here today. Instead, the forces of the universe have forced me into action. Some enterprising fellow in Europe managed to get Mr. Ping Ping together with some freaky Russian lady for a photo opportunity, and the pictures have set the world on fire. I actually opened the New York Post this morning and was greeted by a photo of our friend Mr. Ping Ping, and I also got literally 20 emails from you guys about Mr. Ping Ping appearing in the mainstream press. I still think we need to get him to NYC.

Oh, here’s some of the Ping Ping pictures. There’s actually a video of Ping Ping here. He walks like a pimp. A tiny, tiny pimp. And here’s video of him getting fitted for a custom suit. Seriously.

Finally, I need your help once again, as it’s nearly time for our annual 15 Pounds Of Muscle Watch. Henry Abbott unwittingly kicked things off by linking yesterday to a story about Phoenix’s Alando Tucker putting on 15 Pounds Of Muscle, which reminded me that we all need to keep our eyes and ears out for other NBA players who have put on the dreaded 15 Pounds Of Muscle. (Why 15 Pounds Of Muscle? Because for whatever reason, guys never seem to add 10, 11, 12, or 13 pounds of muscle in the offseason, it’s always 15 Pounds Of Muscle.)

If you see mentions anywhere of guys adding 15 Pounds Of Muscle, drop me an email.

Aiight, back on the grind…