Here, some thoughts:
I'm not worried about the Lakers in any way, shape, or form just yet. To those who say that exchanging Ariza for Artest (essentially) was a bad move, I say: have you watched basketball over the last four years or so? Ron Artest in undoubtedly one of the better players in the Association. There's no question about that. He won Defensive Player of the Year a mere five years ago and I know that we're not looking for a declining player, but I'm not worried. This is still a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol (the love of many lives), and Lamar Odom, not to mention the old stalwart Derek Fisher and the promising youth of Andrew Bynum. With Shannon Brown on the bench looking to take over Farmar's place, pushing both of them to be better when it comes to overtaking Fisher, I don't see a lot to worry about. Those who forecast doom and gloom have put waaaaaay too much thought into it. It's just basketball; these guys are professionals - they'll be all right.
Boston, on the other hand, looks strong. Worryingly strong. I don't want to get into it too much other than to say that the last team that beat us when I thought we were stacked had Rasheed Wallace on it, too. (I mean, don't get me wrong: I thought we were going to win in 2008, but that Celtics team was beastly. Rasheed, on the other hand, has a way of sneaking up on you.) I don't even want to talk about them too much, out of fear.
The Cavs look almost exactly like I thought they would. Which is to say, they look fine. I know they started 0-2 and some of the pundits wanted us to freak out over that and start talking about LeBron and the summer of 2010 and his imminent leaving, but I just don't think that's the case. Yes, I'm now willing to admit that my scenario is less than guaranteed, but so what? Nothing is guaranteed. I still stick by my guns that the Cavs will not win the title this year, but that LeBron will not leave. The Cavs and Lakers are just way too stacked for the Cavs to win this year, but there's not any place that is going to give LeBron a better chance. It's ridiculous.
On the other hand, the Spurs have looked just all right. I really thought their grabbing of Richard Jefferson was going to be the move of the summer, and the acquisition of DeJuan Blair has been covered plenty enough already - the kid's a beast and teams were silly to pass him up. However, all this being said, the Spurs look just all right so far. They spanked the hell out of the Hornets, but Chris Paul and Co. looked crazy out of sync. Then they took an L against Chicago, which was weird. And then, of course, they beat the Kings as every team in the League should. But, I mean, in reality, they haven't looked crazy strong at any time.
Vince plus Orlando equals Magic. I really thought the Magic kind of lucked their way into the Finals last year, even though they could have easily won some of those games. However, I wasn't sure how they truly stacked up against the Celtics, especially with the wild ride the Bulls took them on last year, and Garnett being out. But... They took down a Philly team that might be worth something this year. They beat the Nets, as every team in the League should. And then they took down the schizophrenic Raptors, which I'm not sure how to really interpret.
That's the upper tier.
After that, there's a lot of room to kitsch and complain and commiserate, but we'll leave that for another time. Suffice it to say that I wanted to end this brief re-intro to blogging for me by saying that I'm currently watching the Memphis Grizzlies. They might be my favorite team to watch this year. Yes, seriously. I'm not sure that I've ever been this interested in a collection of talent that seems so singularly minded, devoted, one might even say, to getting their own. Let's just look at some of the great names on the roster: Zach Randolph. OJ Mayo. Hasheem Thabeet. And, of course, making his debut tonight, Allen Iverson.
I am not being sarcastic or trying to talk trash when I say that I am truly fascinated by the Memphis Grizzlies team of 2009-2010.
There are many things to be grateful for, some of them mentioned above. But as I said to my students last Tuesday, the NBA is back. Life is worth living again.