November 20, 2002

Beat Report: NBA Week 4
While Shaq is away, tall skinny men will play. But are Yao Ming (7'5") and Shawn Bradley (7'6") for real? Can they sustain their apparent progress, or will they crumble as the season unfolds? If Bradley disappears, will the 11-0 Mavericks and their newly discovered defense also dissipate? How long before the Mavericks lose? And forget Kobe, is T-Mac the new Jordan? Other thoughts? [See SportsFilter Top Five inside]

posted by jacknose to basketball at 08:22 AM - 11 comments

There are several NBA power rankings that exist. Here are a few: ESPN, Inside Hoops, Sports Illustrated,, Hoops Avenue, and USA Today's computer ratings. The SportsFilter Top Five (that is, according to jacknose) 1. Dallas Mavericks - It would be scandalous to put another team in the number one spot. 2. Indiana Pacers - We're all biased and subjective. There is no way around it. It's our postmodern Zeitgeist. I like the Pacers (always have). They are playing well (four players are averaging double figures). Their bench is deeper than deep. And Miller has been out. Yup, the Pacers are number two. 3. New Jersey Nets - I'm tired of hearing about the Leastern Conference. The basketball doesn't look so great out West. The Nets have a better team than last year and are (for the most part) playing inspired basketball. The Pacers fan inside me worries about this team. 4. Detroit Pistons - Forget the Knicks game. The Pistons look solid. Carlisle proves that he is the real deal as far as coaches go. And Hamilton may fit better with the Pistons than Stackhouse. 5. Seattle Supersonics - Everyone predicted an ugly collapse, but they have been gorgeous so far. That Rashard Lewis can play. *If I had a number 6 and wanted to shake things up a bit, I'd put the Magic there. Sure, their record is suspect, not to mention their D, but they will slowly make their way to the top. T-Mac and Hill will get it together. Mark my words.

posted by jacknose at 08:26 AM on November 20, 2002

Bradley is playing well, but he won't be as important when Raef returns from the IL. He put on some 15-20 pounds of muscle in the off season (not that you could tell) and worked very hard, as he was getting a lot of negative press and criticisms after last season. It's nice to see him have some confidence and earn some praise. The Mavs will lose a game (I think they can handle Seattle and Houston at home, but back-to-back games at Detroit and Indiana will be tough. Especially since Detroit is probably still pissed about this game.) but this does not discount the big wins at Boston and New Jersey, and the man-handling of the Lakers last night. The Lakers looked flat out sloppy. The Mavs for the first time didn't make any large line-up changes over the summer. Instead, they worked on their weak points. And Cuban's behaved so far. This bodes well. Sacramento is looking a lot less scary these days, but that could change come playoffs. Can they beat the Spurs 4 out of 7 or the Lakers with Shaq 4 out of 7? We'll see. But they're gunning for home field through the playoffs (yeah, playoffs. I know it's only november, but oh well) which would be a huge benefit, especially if I can score some tickets.

posted by Ufez Jones at 08:53 AM on November 20, 2002

One more thought: If Shaq's return doesn't give the Lakers an immediate and significant boost, i.e. if there's even a little bit of stumble in there, then the Lakers confidence is going to be shot to hell, and Phil Jackson will need to pull out all of his tricks to vie for another championship. Right now, the Lakers don't even look like a playoff team. Kind of helps answer this question, no?

posted by Ufez Jones at 09:36 AM on November 20, 2002

Absolutely it does. It makes Kobe look like an idiot - and to think one of those two wins is against the Blazers.

posted by djacobs at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2002

But - if the Lakers *don't* make the playoffs, I'll eat my laptop.

posted by djacobs at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2002

I don't doubt the Lakers will make the playoffs. There are still 70+ games to go. That's a lot of games. And if they make the playoffs, they will no doubt be the favorites. If you'll remember, the Bulls started slacking a bit during the season, knowing that the playoffs were what mattered. Regardless of their seeding, they dominated once the second season started. Granted Kobe is not putting the team on his shoulders, but let's not be so quick to judge his ability to be Jordanesque and take a team to the championships one day, sans Shaquilla. He's only 24 (2-3 years older than most college seniors). But more importantly, the Lakers are not (and have never been) built around Kobe. Until Jordan had a team that was built around his particular talents, the Bulls failed to be a force in the league. The Lakers are stumbling because their team is built around Shaq, and Shaq is not around. One day a team will be built around Kobe, and we'll see then if he is able to hang with the legends. Until then, we should not prematurely write him off.

posted by jacknose at 01:18 PM on November 20, 2002

The Nets may yet discover that trading Todd for Dikembe was not a wise move. Tony Battie (no superstar) really got the better of Mutumbo last night; it's way too early in the season for him to be looking as slow as he does. If I were a Nets fan, I'd be fairly worried about the center position. Of course, it's just one game. Still... Meanwhile, the Pacers look to be for real. Pretty damned impressive turnaround.

posted by Bryant at 08:51 AM on November 21, 2002

Bryant, that's a good point about the Todd and Dikembe trade. On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: Legendary defense of player versus a big, white guy. But Mutumbo is far past his prime. It's hard to imagine that he'll play like he has always played. I love the Pacers. I couldn't wait for the season to begin. Last year, I felt the potential of this team, especially after the trade with the Bulls. I'm a fan of Isaiah as well. The press and the fans gave him a hard time last season. I hope he's getting his due in Indy. He deserves it.

posted by jacknose at 09:24 AM on November 21, 2002

Will someone turn off the /joking tag please? Todd M is good, but come playoff time, Mutumbo is the guy you want, hands down!

posted by djacobs at 01:57 PM on November 21, 2002

/joking tag off. But remember he was supposed to be the answer for the 76ers.

posted by jacknose at 03:20 PM on November 21, 2002

Not at all joking. I distinctly remember what the Celtics did to Mutumbo last year in the playoffs. I love the guy, I appreciate his skills over the course of his career, but he is past his prime. Todd isn't the guy I want in the playoffs either, but if I had to make a choice between 'em it'd be Todd. Mutumbo certainly was not an effective defense against Shaq two years ago.

posted by Bryant at 04:36 PM on November 21, 2002

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