Saturday, December 26, 2009

Strings of Street Lights

The most interesting question in the NBA right now is, which team shall win the East?

Crazy stuff can and probably will happen between now and Memorial Day. Last year Jameer Nelson and Kevin Garnett suffered major injuries, while Cleveland had no clue how to solve Dwight Howard or Rashard Lewis. This year, the same squads look champ-ish, and (barring a major trade involving Chicago or Miami, say) those teams are the only three that could represent the East in the Finals.

All three teams have upgraded their rosters since last spring. Cleveland added Shaquille O'Neal, Jamario Moon, and Anthony Parker. Boston added Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, and Shelden Williams, while Orlando added Vince Carter, Brandon Bass, Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson, and Jason Williams. The Cavs can now defend bigs and dynamic slashers; Boston enhanced everything they were already good at; and Orlando massively upgraded its roster. (Consider that the Magic lost only Courtney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu from their 2008-09 core.)

Yesterday, Christmas Day, the Celtics proved for one night that they could wrest a win away from Orlando's sun-lapsed fans. Meanwhile, Cleveland impressively marched into Los Angeles and defied the demands of Anna Kournikova and Snoop Dogg, thumping L.A. by a firm 15. Of course, the Lakers and Magic will be better. Cleveland and Boston might not be so good, if their aging studs Shaq and Kev cannot remain hale.

All told, I think Orlando, with its amazingly deep roster (and the flexibility to sign a couple more names to the fourteenth and fifteenth spots) will be the best Eastern team in May.

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