NBA Preview: Can Anyone Beat the Heat?
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Chicago: By signing forward Carlos Boozer the Bulls now have their own Threatening Three in Boozer, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, not to mention returning starters Loul Deng and Taj Gibson. They also added Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, C. J. Watson and distance shooter Kyle Korver. Boozer gave Utah 19.5 points and 11 rebounds per game last year. Can they take on the Miami Thrice? Consecutive 41-win seasons and first-round play-off losses should change.
Phoenix: Though Phoenix upped their win total from 48 to 54 last year, they lost scorer Amare’ Stoudemire to New York but have acquired Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress. Phoenix can still score with the ball, but whether they can rebound it is another matter. “The question is can they defend, rebound and stop you in the paint,” says Brown. Last year they were tied at two with Los Angeles before dropping the final two games.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder has one of the best one-two punches in the league in guard Russell Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant, last year’s scoring leader and the MVP of the summer’s World Games. They matched up well against the Lakers, pushing them to six games and only losing 95-94 when a rebound got away and Pau Gasol scored on a put back. Durant was the league’s leading scorer (30.1) and was a First Team All-NBA player.
Rush to Judgement
More than the usual dicey preseason predictions, this year is about our judgment about how the three Miami players came together. “I’m not a fan of what they did or how they decided and celebrated their decision,” Van Gundy points out. “But each one of them fulfilled their contractual obligations and earned a right to decide where they work. They had the right.”
Hubie Brown agrees. “The Heat performed a magic act. They took major risks to allow others to become free agents at the end of last season, once they got James and Wade, they were able to get under the cap by convincing them to take less money. Never has this been done since the cap came into existence. There was nothing illegal here and nothing shady. They did everything by the book and the players had to sacrifice in order to make it happen.”
Each of the big three inked a five-year deal. Given that much time together, they should expect to win multiple titles. Anything less would be considered a failure, and there will be plenty of people to remind them of that.
Kenneth Shouler, a regular contributor to Cigar Aficionado, blogs at www.kenshouler.com
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