Let The Season (And The Questions) Begin

There are always questions in the NBA, even with 28.6 seconds left in Game 6 of The Finals, as the Spurs will attest. Here are five of the most interesting for the 2013-14:

No. 1: Can the Heat “three-peat” be beat?

It’s certainly trendy these days to pick against the two-time defending champions due to trades, coaching changes or just sheer boredom. After all, isn’t it far more intriguing to figure out how Doc Rivers is going to upgrade Lob City from sideshow to real contenders, how Kevin Durant is going to climb to the top with a mending Russell Westbrook, how Derrick Rose will restore the Bulls, how Gregg Popovich is going to convince the Spurs that they can spend the next eight months chasing down a redo of those last 28.6 seconds? But sometimes it’s just overreaching and over-thinking things. As long as LeBron James is healthy and engaged, and perhaps because he is just entering what should be the prime of his career, the Heat have the single weapon nobody else can touch. Maybe things will change next summer when the Big Three all enter free agency. Then it will be time to take stock of Dwyane Wade’s health and Chris Bosh’s value as a max-contract player. Until that time, they have something to prove, which can be achieved by a fourth straight trip to The Finals and a third championship. There is no indication that the Heat are satisfied or slipping, only more sure of what they’re doing at crunch time. Count on the “three-peat.”


VIDEO: LeBron James talks with David Aldridge about three-peat hopes

No. 2: Who is the first coach fired?

It’s an unusual season since we can eliminate nearly half (13) of the franchises since they’re already working with first-year coaches. But it would seem that there is a trio on the firing line. The Wizards’ Randy Wittman was a bit of a surprise to survive last season’s 4-28 start and definitely is feeling the heat with the return of a healthy John Wall and the recent trade for solid veteran center Marcin Gortat. Washington’s first month is quite tough and could put Wittman’s neck back in the noose if the Wiz stumble out of the gate. Everybody will be watching the every inhale and exhale of the Lakers every time they step out onto the court or any kind of appearance in public. It would seem hard to evaluate Mike D’Antoni at all until Kobe Bryant returns to the lineup and shows whether he is close to defying the odds at 35 and returning to his old form. But these are the Lakers, the league’s highest-profile franchise. They dumped Mike Brown after five games last season and if the product is horrible early on again, D’Antoni will be under pressure. Especially if Doc Rivers and the new-look Clippers are flying high and doing more than just covering up Lakers banners at Staples Center. But with all of those difficulties in Washington and L.A., the first move could be made in New York. Just a season ago, the Knicks were peddling (and fooling) themselves as true contenders. But after another somewhat early playoff flameout, they are an afterthought in the East. They’re not even the best team in the five boroughs and the tabloid heat applied by the New York media could burn down the Mike Woodson era. Carmelo Anthony has announced that he’ll entertain free agency and we all remember what a ridiculous distraction “Melo-drama I” became in Denver. Woodson will pay the price.


VIDEO: Bob Ryan on NBA’s coaching carousel

No. 3: Who makes first big trade?

Danny Granger will open the season on the shelf in Indiana, but is likely to finish on another team’s roster by the February trade deadline. At 30, with reduced role and a future price that will be too steep for the small-market Pacers, he’s prime for moving. If the Sixers want to continue their move to do everything except hijack the Andrew Wiggins lottery, they’ll ship out their best player, Thaddeus Young. He’ll be too old to be a factor by the time Philly’s long-term rebuilding project is complete. But when it comes to finding the first square peg that no longer fits, it will probably be Houston’s Omer Asik. A season ago he got his chance as a starter and averaged a double-double for the Rockets. Coach Kevin McHale is determined to try to make a twin towers combination work with Dwight Howard. But it is hard to see this making anyone happy for the long term. The Rockets will have trouble guarding power forwards and the pair of big men will choke off the space James Harden needs to operate in the lane. At this point, Asik is more valuable to the Rockets as a trade chip than as a misfit piece to the puzzle.


VIDEO:
Will the Dwight Howard-Omer Asik combo work?

No. 4: Who is the Comeback King?

The candidates are everywhere, a slate lead by players who’ve become permanent fixtures in the All-Star Game. Kobe Bryant is at the top of the list because of his status and what he means to the Lakers. He’s tough, determined, unwilling to give in even to age and nature, but it’s hard to see him approaching his former self until at least Christmas (and more likely, the All-Star Game). The Thunder need Russell Westbrook to get back into the lineup and begin launching himself into space again as soon as possible. But it is hard to see any return being more successful and more complete than Derrick Rose‘s. He not only brings his explosiveness back to the lineup, but also the leadership skills and sheer desire that will likely make Chicago once again the top challenger to Indiana in the Central Division and Miami in the East.


VIDEO: A slow-mo look at Derrick Rose’s season debut vs. Miami

No. 5: Who crashes and burns?

The Nets have the most money on the line as owner Mikhail Prokorov is on pace to spend $80 million in luxury-tax payments alone on his star-studded lineup. While Brooklyn will likely be the best team in the New York area and keep the pressure on the crosstown rival Knicks, it is hard to see a geezer-laden lineup that relies so heavily on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce leapfrogging Indiana and Chicago. In Denver, the Nuggets have to account for the losses of coach George Karl and do-it-all forward Andre Iguodala to follow up a 57-win season. However, the team that could take the biggest tumble is in Memphis. The Grizzlies not only let coach Lionel Hollins, who carved out their rugged identity, walk out the door, but they still can’t find any kind of an outside shooting game to offset Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph‘s play. If Tayshaun Prince doesn’t bump up his offense considerably, even the return of local favorite Mike Miller won’t be enough to let the Grizzlies make a return to the Western Conference finals. In a worst-case scenario, they could miss the playoffs entirely.


VIDEO:
NBA TV previews the Grizzlies’ season

27 Comments

  1. MiLo from Germany says:

    @Mark hey this win over Miami must feel like a loss to all ya out there in Philly, because all your tryin to do is loose badley in hope to receive the number 1 Pick in next years Draft…anyway the Knicks wont win anything as long as Melo plays there, selfish players dont win Championchips ( besides Kobe the most selfish player of all time, who would not have won without Shaq in the first place and not without Pau and Bynum later) I hope Melo goes to Lakers next year, so i can keep on hateing the Lakers and start likeing the Knicks again…and by the way, heat will 3-peat over OKC in the Finals, no matter how their record is in the regular season, they rest d-wade more often, like last night and they lose some more games in the season, but comes playoff time the HEAT will be on…

  2. Roy says:

    Pacers for 2014 title, Paul George wins MVP because they have a 60+ win reg season with the first seed. Vs the Clippers winning 4-1. Doc makes that team contenders.

  3. Mark says:

    Haha bandwagon- I mean, “Heat fans,” how’s losing to the worst team in the league feel? (I’m a proud Philly fan!) No way you’re three-peating

  4. Jacob says:

    whoever thinks kevin garnett and paul pierce will be completely healthy and ready to go in the playoffs is delusional. lets say they somehow make it to the ECF against Miami, do you really think the nets will win? lets even say they make it to the finals, do you really think their bodies will hold up?

    the nba is not corrupt. the heat are a great team. (this coming from a knicks fan). I give respect when its due. I would LOVE to see knicks vs Miami in the ECF. that would be epic. I think the knicks did actually get better for the most part, because novak was useless (his game is way too predicable and hes horrible on defense), camby is old and he just got injured and waived by the rockets, and q-rich was just nothing as well. however, getting bargnari has proven to be a bad move so far unless this guy toughens up on defense. but I will give him a chance because the season starts tonight and hes coming off a month long pneumonia sickness so hes not fully ready yet. adding metta was amazing and we got him for nothing. hes gonna help a lot on defense. also, I think shumpert will have a break out season.

  5. Mel Grant II says:

    Come on. The Nets should win more games than the Knicks (and Celtics obviously) because they’re the better team. KG and The Truth are already NBA champions so calling the Nets overrated is just being silly. Miami is without a doubt the team to beat. They are the champs after all. But to relegate the improved teams to sub par status is simply unfair and unrealistic. Brooklyn is in need of a defensive identity and hopefully this season will bring that. Last season was a learning experience so why would adding more talent and experience to the roster not improve a good team? This Nets team is far better than last year so I expect a good run in the eastern conference for them, the Bulls and Pacers as well and to just let the playoffs pick the best team. That’s all you can ask for as a basketball fan.

  6. NBAFan says:

    Heat Vs Pacers ECF. Miami will three-peat.

    Melo will play Lakers next season.

  7. meloman says:

    whats that song in the VIDEO: A slow-mo look at Derrick Rose’s season debut vs. Miami?

  8. Ryan Barone says:

    What is wrong with people!!!! Why does everyone around the league hate the Knicks this season. Have they gotten worse? No. Have they gotten better? Yes. The Nets are not “the favorite” in the Atlantic no matter how many washed up injury prone players they got. In fact, I say the Celtics (Who I hate) finish ahead of a ’2012-13 Laker-like’ Nets team

    Knicks Lost: Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Chris Copeland, Kurt Thomas, Earl Barron, Quentin Richardson
    Knicks Got: Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani, Beno Urich, Tim Hardaway Jr, Cole Aldrich, Amare Stoudemire (Basically)

    What makes you think we got worse????????

    • paxus says:

      The knicks dont have a sustainable style of play. Particularly in the playoffs. They feasted on the lower end of the east to inflate there record and with it everyones expectations of them. I dont think they got worse, I just thought they where very overrated to begin with. Not a bad team but probably would have finished 6th in the west. Not trying to hate just calling it as i see it. If there shooters get hot there is always a chance but when your second best player is J.R smith calling your self a title contender is a stretch. And no way in hell boston wins more then the nets who i also think is overrated.

      • keith says:

        the knicks destroyed the heat and other top teams last year, how is that feasting on the bottom division teams?

    • FACE THE FACTS says:

      Exactly! Where does this hate and underration come from? They where 2nd in the East!! And suddenly a shopped up Nets team is better? Before proving anything? Lost in first round while Knicks went to 2nd and lost against a really good Pacers team, which I think is the only to be put deservedly above the Knicks. No no, they should be fighting at least for 3rd in the East. Nets are just Hype for now!

  9. jason barnes says:

    knicks vs Grizzlies NBA finals

  10. vcxvcxv says:

    We already know who the MVP of the league is
    just give the trophy to the refs already
    refs OP
    they already determined that the heat will 3-peat, why bother trying to stop them

  11. bunbury says:

    the heat will 3-peat mainly because of the NBA corruption. The NBA is getting close to Soccer and not far away from Boxing when it comes to corruption. the heat just needed a little alittle push from the officials to beat San Antonio and will happen again this year.

    • LBJthaking!!!! says:

      No its called talent buddy officials gave spurs alot of calls also. Ray Allen hitting that three was absolutely amazing and true skill

    • Pakyaw says:

      Excuses again!..

    • keith says:

      The nba is corrupt. Lebron is no doubt the best all around player but its pretty clear sometimes either A) how fixed the nba is B) how incompetant the refs are or C) how completely impossible it is to accurately officiate basketball . I guess i only watch in hope that its not A. But it sure bugs me sometimes

  12. Chris says:

    From what we have all seen from the obviously age-defying Garnett and Pierce in the past, it would be illogical to think that the Nets, as strong as they were last year, are not going to be in the hunt nearing the end of the playoffs.

  13. adahey says:

    There is no way the Nets will rely on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to run the Nets go back and read what there role is because thats not it at all.