By: Same Page Team
The NBA season tipped off last night so that means it’s time to get Reynolds, Grant and Osubronie in here with another Three for 3. Today’s questions focus on expectations for the coming 2014-15 NBA season.
1) What’s your favourite story line coming into the season?
Osubronie: Going into the 2014-15 season I can only think of one thing, “What the hell will Jason Kidd do this time?” After a year of questionable decisions, on and off the court, and frequently being mentioned in news reports for either criticism or praise, I am positive that the new season ahead will feature more of the same for Milwaukee’s new coach, Kidd. Last year, he began the season as first year coach after retiring from the court only months before. He was quickly suspended for his first two games for a previous DWI charge. Weeks later, he was fined $50,000 for intentionally spilling a drink on the court because he ran out of time outs. Is there any other way to start off a new chapter of your career?
Fast-forward eight months, when Jason Kidd decided to take control of his own future while destroying the coaching career of another. Kidd tried to obtain more power from the Nets and when he didn’t get it, found a way to get himself hired as the coach of the Milwaukee bucks. The real problem with this is Larry Drew was fired after one year, to make room for Kidd to coach. So after spending one season not coaching the a group of overpriced, seasoned veterans, Kidd will now be trusted with a potential franchise player, Jabari Parker. I have no idea if this will prove that he is an exemplary coach or merely hiding behind the legacy of his playing talent. I think it’s the latter, but until then I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Grant: I think the Derrick Rose situation is by far the most interesting story line in basketball right now, Cleveland be damned. Rose himself has looked strong so far this pre-season and appears to be close to firing on all cylinders; if this is truly the case, watch out world. Rose himself said the other day that he thinks people are underrating him. ‘I know I’m not a top 30 player, I know I’m much higher’. ESPN recently ranked him 28th overall, which of course, is related to health. Some may think it’s pretty cut and dried; if he’s healthy they’ll be good, if he’s not, they won’t. And that’s true to an extent but if you look more deeply, there are so many more tantalizing loose ends.
Health assumed, can he play the same way? How good can the Bulls be? How will the Pau, Noah, Taj Gibson front-court work? Is Doug McDermott good? What about Nikola Mirotic? Will Jimmy Butler break out? All of it relates back to Rose. If he’s BACK, in capital letters, the Bulls are my personal championship favourites. So yeah it’s cut and dried. All that depends on it is the fate of a potential Hall of Famer, the Chicago Bulls franchise, the Eastern Conference, the 2014-15 season and a slice of NBA History. No big deal.
Reynolds: Hello everyone, do you realize that the Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to play basketball in the National Basketball Association in the years 2014 and 2015 while resisting the urge – at the discretion of their coach Byron Scott, a former professional basketball player – to take three point shots?
I don’t want to go full Flaming Lips on you here, but DO YOU REALIZE??
Look, the NBA has been trending in a certain direction for awhile now. Once players and coaches acknowledged that a three point shot gets you 50 percent more points than a two point shot, it made sense to shoot more of them (even if the odds of hitting said shot are usually in the 30-40 percent range). Yes, OK, that’s a lot of math. How about we keep it a little more simple: seven of the past eight NBA champions led all playoff teams in 3-point attempts and makes. This feels significant somehow.
Anyway, I for one am interested to see how far Coach Scott will go. The Lakers shot 10 three pointers in their first game of the season. They played pre-season games in which they took a mere three 3-point shots in an entire game. Will they get to zero? Will this basketball time machine work? I am on the edge of my seat.
2) Which team will be a surprise to make or miss the playoffs?
Osubronie: Two years ago the Indiana Pacers had were up 2-1 on the Miami Heat during the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. Paul George was lining up to be Lebron 2.0 and Roy Hibbert was a “true center” that dominated around the rim. Lance Stephenson was foolishly making choke-signs to the best player in the world and they eventually lost that series, but there was hope. Within two years the Pacers could be playing for an NBA championship if everything went according to plan. Instead due to injuries and free agency signings, Indiana will surprise everyone this season and miss the NBA playoffs. I was worried for Indiana, back in July, when Stephenson decided to sign with the Charlotte bobcats. There was ample time for the Pacers management to sign someone and fill the void left at the two-spot, even if they knew no one on the open market could compare to Lance. So they decided to sit back and wait for the right opportunity. I don’t think anyone thought things could get any worse… then they did.
Paul George may have already started working out, but losing him for the year was just the beginning. West, Hill and Miles have all went down with their own injuries to start the season. If Hibbert cannot return to All-Star form and repeats his horrendous performance from the second half of last season, the Pacers will not only miss the playoffs but be a lock for a lottery pick. Who knows, maybe Luis Scola will save the day. But, probably not.
Grant: The Detroit Pistons will make the playoffs. The reason? The man in the velour turtleneck.
Stan Van Gundy doesn’t lose. His career winning percentage is .649. His career record as a coach is 371-208. He’s never had a season where he finished even .500; he’s always been at least two games over. He won 52 games or more in each of his four full seasons in Orlando. He led a team that started Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee and Rashard Lewis to the NBA Finals. He’s a stallion. A mustachioed, Ron Jeremy-esque stallion. So yeah there are questions about chemistry and attitude. The presence of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings virtually assures that these will dog the team throughout the year, or until either or both of them are moved. Greg Monroe is potential trade bait as well, as is basically anyone on the roster who’s name doesn’t rhyme with Mondray Spummond. And yes they’re in tough with Cleveland and Chicago in the division. But none of it matters, because Stan Van 3000 does. Not. LOSE.
Reynolds: We know the Western Conference is just a bloodbath, it’s a war of attrition, it’s beyond thunderdome, it’s scorched earth. Assuming the locks: Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Mavericks, Warriors, Grizzlies, Rockets, and we’re left with one playoff spot, an eighth seed. It leaves us with Portland, a team that made it to the second round last year, Phoenix, a team that surprised everyone, and…
The New Orleans Pelicans. Hey, you wanted a surprise. Right now, the Pellies have some serious mojo working for them. They’ve got Ryan Anderson back and ready to resume bombing away, they added Omer Asik who’ll do his Omer Asik things, and they run a backcourt that features Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. There’s a lot to like there. Yes, the bench is a bit thin (I think I see Alexis Ajinca in there!), but maybe Austin Rivers will improve, or Jimmer Fredette will get back to his gunning ways. It feels tough to count Portland or Phoenix out (to say nothing of Houston), but there’s… I don’t know, there’s something about the Pelicans that has me feeling like they’re gonna make it this year. Oh yeah: ANTHONY DAVIS.
3) What is the biggest challenge facing the Raptors this season?
Osubronie: The Toronto Raptors are finally getting some respect around the league. Canada’s lone NBA team has risen to the top tier of the conference. All we have to do was find a way to improve on our first playoff season in six years. They made a few additions and resigned the core of the team. The Raptors, however, will still face some significant challenges. They must deal with an issue that has been lingering in people’s mind since the off-season. Is Kyle Lowry for real?
In an already weak and injury-riddled Eastern Conference, the Raptors will look to their floor general to lead the team and re-establish the chemistry that was at an all time high at the end of the season. Lowry’s ability to control the flow of a game is one of his biggest strengths. His alpha male personality took over more games than I could count last year. He averaged 17/7/4 last season and should have been an All-Star. Still, this was all during a contract year. Was he playing the best basketball of his career because he believed in the team? Or was he thinking ahead to the $48 million pay day he eventually received.
I loathe the idea of players playing their hearts out for one year, and then mailing it in once they get paid. I can only hope this isn’t true with Kyle. With Lowry leading DeRozan, Ross, Jonas and co, the Raptors have a very good chance at not only repeating the regular season success, but going deeper in this year’s playoffs. Don’t let me down, Lowry, don’t let us down.
We’ve all heard the stat. The Raptors were 6-12 when they made the Rudy Gay trade and 42-22 afterwards. That’s a fantastic record. It bodes well for the core of this team, which remains intact.
However, lets take a look at those 12 initial losses. They came to Miami (2), Indiana, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago and Atlanta (with Al Horford) in the east; Houston, Denver, Golden State, Phoenix and Portland in the West. 3-6 at home, 3-6 on the road. Not exactly a soft schedule. Playoff teams in the East, and a tough road trip against the West; could this current Raptors team have made that much of a difference in those games? Could they have gone even 6-6? Who knows. The point is, we still don’t know what this team will look like over a full season and expectations are high. What we do know is that this is no longer a surprise. Toronto isn’t going to catch anyone napping, so they better bring their A game right from the get go.
Reynolds: The biggest challenge facing the Raptors is the danger of high expectations. I use the word “danger” as if it could suddenly strike back and bite them because, well, it could. Last year, the Raptors were a surprise. We all know this now. None of us expected the team to make a run up the standings and challenge for a spot in the second round of the playoffs. Hell, we thought we’d still be grappling with what to do with Rudy Gay by today’s season opener.
Last year that outsider We The North attitude carried them well. The team was allowed to make mistakes because no one really expected them to be in a position to even make meaningful mistakes. But now the pressure mounts. Now a cold shooting night, or a bad injury, or an unlucky call could get players feeling tight. And the fans? The Air Canada Centre is ready to rollick, but the fans will now be walking in the door expecting effort, expecting execution and expecting victory. For those championship-calibre teams, the confidence comes a little bit easier, the winning reserve feels always within reach. For the Raptors, a team with a fanbase not used to success, the expectations loom large, but the goal is still very far away.