Spurs to win NBA title
November 4, 2004
With little fanfare, yet another season has begun in the National Basketball Assocation. This year, hardly anyone seems to care who will win the championship. The only story recently always was the Los Angeles Lakers, and would they once again capture the title. That possibility is out of the window now, with the offseason breakup of that once-great team.
Much of the fault has been piled on LA superstar Kobe Bryant for a feud that forced the trade that sent the most dominating force in basketball, Shaquille O’Neal, to the Miami Heat. Nine-time championship head coach Phil Jackson also skipped town, saying too that Bryant was the reason he quit the Lakers. But all three of them need to take their share of the blame.
O’Neal helped start this mess in 2002 when before the season he selfishly delayed toe surgery so that he could enjoy the summer writing rap music and going to the beach. Last year, Shaq got lazy with workouts, ballooned 25 pounds, got injured and wasn’t at his peak during the playoffs. Being the most valuable player in the game, he indulged in some of the finer things in life and still ruled the basketball court, but at times he hurt the cohesiveness and strength of the team.
Jackson, without question, is the greatest coach of our era and certainly one of the most intelligent people on earth. But with that intellect also comes some arrogance. He knows he’s a genius and always tries to push his thoughts on and influence others. With that mentality, Jackson often clashed with the rising talent Bryant. (If you want to read about it, Phil has a new book he wasted countless hours writing notes for during last season.) Shaq sided with Jackson.
In the end, it came down to a choice between Kobe and the Shaq-Jackson team. Management kept the youthful Bryant over Jackson and the 32-year-old O’Neal, and only time will tell if that was the right decision. The best thing that could have happened was a future with all three together in Lakerland, creating an evil empire much like baseball’s New York Yankees. But now fans need to find another team to hate, just so there’s anything at all to root for or against in the NBA this year.
• The 2004-05 NBA season began with some notable changes. The league has added a new franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, and moved the New Orleans Hornets to the Western Conference. The squads are now split into six five-team divisions. Seven new coaches have taken over and 20 former all-stars have switched clubs.
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Did you find any of those facts interesting? If so, consider yourself a true fan of the NBA. The problem is, many people just don’t give a damn about any of those changes, or the entire league, for that matter.
Scoring averages are way down as the glory days of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving are long gone, having been replaced by a group of over-marketed, overpaid prima donnas who can’t shoot.
The NBA has another problem with player Charles Oakley estimating that 60 percent of their athletes use marijuana, including “budding” star and Olympian Carmelo Anthony, who was arrested at an airport two weeks ago.
If players concentrated more on hitting “Js ” during rather than before games, maybe the NBA would deliver a better product. Unfortunately, fans are stuck with this low-scoring, boring brand of bad basketball.
Western Conference –
Southwest Division – San Antonio
Northwest – Minnesota
Pacific – Sacramento
Other playoff teams – Houston, Memphis, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles Lakers.
Eastern Conference –
Central Division – Detroit
Southeast – Miami
Atlantic – Philadelphia
Other playoff teams – Indiana, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Orlando, New York
Championship – Despite the fact Detroit won the title last season and Miami now has Shaq, the West will clearly continue to be the more powerful conference. The strongest East contenders are Detroit, Miami and Indiana, while the West should come down to a fight between San Antonio and Minnesota.
The Lakers will not contend, but with two-time championship head coach Rudy Tomjanovich, and the possible return of Hall of Famer Karl Malone from injury, Los Angeles should at least reach the playoffs and throw a scare into someone. One thing for sure, Laker fans will not miss seeing Shaq brick free throws.
Finals – San Antonio over Detroit.
Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.