Anytime now, somewhere in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider will bang a bunch of lead ions together in the hopes of learning how the universe began. This big atom smasher might also start a chain reaction causing the whole world to melt into a mucky glob of dark matter, or so the worry has been expressed, and predicted, perhaps in more sophisticated terms, but no less scary. Who wants to make such a prediction? You can only be wrong and live to tell about it. Come to think about it, this whole idea changes the way I look at predictions on the upcoming NBA season.
Let’s assume we’re all going to go poof thanks to a scenario not unlike the igniting of Solarburnite as explained in Plan 9 from Outer Space. That would mean we should take the observations about the upcoming season as the next best thing to experiencing a season that, in reality, or bad b-movies come to life, will never be. So enjoy! I’m going to say the Raptors
will have a shot at winning it all. Take that and run with it. Run down Yonge Street naked. Enjoy it while you can. And if we’re all still here next week, well then you get the added bonus of watching the games.
Although by discovering the beginnings and all of the workings of the universe, quantum physics will quite likely throw all basketball scenarios off-kilter, even if they don't kill us all. Let’s say the Swiss harness just enough dark matter to counteract a force like Dwight Howard. And this bit of anti-Howard makes freethrows. They might become the greatest basketball nation on earth and eclipse our NBA.
David Stern will think that at least the hip-hop influence will have been effectively combatted, and that instead of relying on the lame swing stylings of the Pussycat Dolls to really catch on, he can be sure that yodeling will be the perfect soundtrack to all the action this game supplies. One way or another - quantum physics is going to mess things up.
So why go into the prognostications in-depth? I just won’t do it. But since it’s hurricane season, and there’s nothing but one cone of uncertainty showing up after another, I think I can use that model to predict what probably won’t be such a disaster in New Orleans (again - barring the effects of quantum physics). Yeah - I know. All the hurricanes are terrible things, and I shouldn’t make light of the death and destruction. But up against a Hadron Collider’s mishaps, they seem apt for sports metaphors. And it allows me to skim over a season-to-be in the way a weather-forecaster glances over monstrous storms.
I see a few storms brewing in the Atlantic, another in central Florida, and somehow there’s some tropical-force winds blowing off the Great Lakes. (Why is there not a Great Lakes division?) Which ones will make their way into the Gulf of Mexico. Which team from the East will blow into the home of what I’m calling the champs of the west right off (mostly just for the sake of a metaphor, and my love of Chris Paul)?
Well let’s look at the cone of uncertainty for Toronto. They could be the team to blow in from the Atlantic. But then look and you'll see that the cone widens out pretty dramatically as it approaches the Gulf, and actually covers the possibility of drifting out to the middle of the Atlantic and dying out. Like with any storm, the direction taken will depend on whether other systems steer it one way or the other. The most resistance will come most likely from pressure in the form of four other teams. Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Orlando all have established high-pressure systems in place. It’s not hard to say that each of them could find themselves in the 50-60 win range. And still with each of them, there are questions that make me think the Raptors
might put a small scare into the good citizens of New Orleans for at least a brief time.
Boston won it all. Do they have the same desire to win this time around? They definitely do not have James Posey, who is already in New Orleans waiting. I’m thinking they still win big, but prove much more vulnerable to Highs and Lows than last season.
Detroit petered-out again last season, with the future of the franchise - Mr. Prince - withering just as badly as the previous year when his team needed him the most. There is a vacuum of leadership that still hangs over that team as much as when Ben Wallace left. And now they have threats of a shakeup that might only be threats or might bring an even greater vacuum. And they have an unproven rookie coach to make things right this time. But then Flip was just a coach in name only apparently. It just feels like too many storm clouds and no thunder and lightning.
Cleveland can come up big in the playoffs, but they are so unbalanced that there is no saying what direction they will take. They even lost something defensively last season, so they count on Lebron as much as ever. It’s nice that they found themselves a point guard, but now Mo Williams has to figure out how he can be effective while teams are playing off of Ben Wallace or Anderson Varejao. It will be interesting to see whether Lebron ends up being a point forward again, or not. And whether or not they peak at the right time. They are built like a playoff team on paper, and their regular season record might not matter so much. You know Lebron will show up. But if they’re not quite right by the time the post-season arrives, and still can’t find the right ways to compliment Lebron then they’ll fight the kind of uphill battle that their record would indicate they should.
And Orlando comes off a season where they played a lot of close games, learning how to play in the crunch, but also raising some questions as to how some of those games got close to start with. They also lacked a certain amount of leadership. Back in January I watched them blow a 20 point lead to the Nets. Actually it wasn’t the Nets, because there wasn’t anyone on that team putting in any kind of effort until Darryl Armstrong hit the floor. Yep - that’s right - Orlando allowed themselves to be beaten by an old geezer all on his own, with a 20-point cushion to fall back on. A lack of leadership do you think? They have a nice front-court, but a backcourt that has questionably only gotten weaker over last season, and a defensive intensity that is entirely hit-and-miss. All of the above makes them very susceptible to losing ground over the marathon of a season.
So even though the East is stronger, and almost entirely competitive with the West, there is no one or two teams that seem like sure bets. I’m guessing that three of the four teams at the top of the conference slip a little and let Toronto, and maybe Philly or Washington to surge upwards. From there who knows? Toronto began the last two seasons with very few weaknesses to worry about going in. At least none that couldn’t be fluffed over by looking at the overall depth, and the growing signs of leadership and chemistry that so many teams lack. And yet nobody saw them with any great strengths that they could rely on through a whole season and into the playoffs. They lacked Boston’s desire and dominance at a number of positions, Detroit’s experience as a team, Cleveland’s King, and Orlando’s front-court. Now they have Jermaine O’Neal and Bosh
together forming a pretty formidable eye-wall that will not die out so soon. And so if they find themselves over warm waters, with the more established teams weakening here and there, and get a good playoff seeding, they have a chance to, as they say, wreak havoc. I look forward to watching the games and I hope to see that cone of uncertainty narrow as the schedule plays out. Quantum Physics be damned!