I was never one to get excited about the things I saw on paper.
On the basketball court, you can put the most talented players in
the world together, but if they don’t do the little things it takes
to win, then none of it will matter.
Personally, I gotta see it work before I get excited. I feel
that way about what the Los Angeles Lakers did this offseason, and
I feel the same way about the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and New
In all fairness, though, those are the four teams that come to
mind first when thinking about who made power moves this offseason,
and they could all take a step forward.
After losing in the first round, the Lakers were going to make a
splash, for sure. They’re the Lakers and they have LeBron James, so
they did what the Laker franchise has been known for — getting
players who they think can help them win a championship. With
Russell Westbrook and ‘Melo and those guys, they have a veteran
group of guys who have already gotten paid and made their name and
should, in theory, put winning above all else.
Personally, I’m not really into the business of making
predictions because, at the end of the day, you still gotta play
the games. Remember back when the Lakers had Karl Malone and Gary
Payton along with Shaq and Kobe? They nearly got swept by the
Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals — they didn’t win.
Even this past season, with the Brooklyn Nets — everyone thought
that with KD, James Harden and Kyrie Irving on the same squad,
those guys would win for sure. Maybe they would’ve if they didn’t
have injury issues, but that’s a part of the game. A lot of things
need to line up for you to win a championship, and those guys on
the Lakers probably know it too.
It’s no surprise that a lot of people are picking the Lakers to
win the Western Conference this year. They can do it if they make
the right sacrifices for one another. Westbrook has the ability to
make the game easier for LeBron and AD, but it will all come down
to whether he’s able to be efficient and whether Frank Vogel and
the rest of the coaching staff are comfortable allowing him to
continue to be the same assertive, aggressive player he’s always
been. I like what the Lakers did, though, all things considered.
They’re going for it.
After adding Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso to their
core of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls really have
something exciting there for fans in The Chi. Of all those guys,
though, I think Vuc is the one I’m really excited about. I always
thought that he was a good player who was worth his money for what
he brought to the equation. He went to the Bulls at the deadline
last season, and now will have a full season there to get
comfortable. Chicago has a nice mix of younger and older veterans —
a collection of certified ballers. They’re going to have a good
season and find themselves back in the playoffs.
Are they going to be contending for the Eastern Conference
championship? I don’t think I’m ready to go that far just yet.
Milwaukee and Brooklyn appear to be head and shoulders above
everyone else out there, but like I said: the game isn’t played on
For Chicago, though, getting back to the playoffs should be
enough to cause some excitement. The team has missed the playoffs
in five of the last six years, and has only won two playoff series
since 2011. It’s important to remember that you have to crawl
before you walk.
Most of the time, becoming a winning team is something that
takes time and chemistry. Chicago could be starting to assemble
something special, and that in and of itself is reason enough to be
excited for them.
Then, there’s the Knicks.
Man, of all the teams in the league, it seems like the Knicks
are the team that has been trying the hardest and for the longest
to be good. It just hasn’t really panned out for them... until last
That’s what makes the Knicks really interesting to me. Every so
often in this league, you see a team that comes out of nowhere and
surprises a lot of people and overachieves. Sometimes when that
happens, it could kind of trick you into believing the team is
further along toward becoming a contender than they actually are.
When you’re no longer able to sneak up on opposing teams and when
they really sit down and scout you and take your strengths away,
that’s when you actually find out if they’re more of a pretender
than a potential contender. So this season, we’re going to find out
a thing or two about New York.
Since the new front office took over, the Knicks have made a
concerted effort to bring in guys who were on their second or third
chance in the league. Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton didn’t really
work out; Julius Randle did. RJ Barrett looks like he could be a
decent player. Now, they added Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, so
it looks like they addressed some of their needs. Fournier is a
shooter and Kemba is a good point guard.
It’s hard to not like those moves.
Under Thibs last season, the Knicks played hard and played the
right way, but I’m not sure that they’ll be able to duplicate that
same energy. For those guys who were there last year, we’ll see if
Thibs’ voice and message still resonate the same way it did last
season when those guys felt like they had something to prove.
In their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks,
the Knicks weren’t able to win just by playing hard — not when
another coach had the opportunity to scout them and take away their
Maybe Kemba can channel the energy the team has last year. Aside
from being from New York, he went from being an All-NBA selection
in 2018-19 to signing with Boston Celtics to getting traded and
bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Again, this front office
likes to roll the dice on players who have something to prove, and
Kemba fits that description.
I don’t know if the Knicks are going to enter the top tier in
the Eastern Conference. But at least they’re building something
If there’s one team I’d pick to disrupt the Milwaukee-Brooklyn
duo at the top, it might be Miami.
Kyle Lowry is a proven winner. He grew into a championship
player in Toronto and knows what it takes to win at the highest
level. He’ll easily fit into the culture down there with Spo and
Jimmy Butler and those guys.
Still, maybe more than any other team, Miami is the perfect
example of what happens when things do and don’t line up. In the
Bubble, the Heat came within two games of winning a championship,
but then they couldn’t even win a game in the first round this
year. But they rebounded nicely by signing three guys who have
championship-caliber experience — Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff
Morris. Maybe best of all, they re-signed Victor Oladipo, who is
obviously eager to prove that he can still
play at a high level.
Adding those newcomers to the core group that won the East in
2020 is going to put Miami back in the contender conversation in
the conference. That’s especially true since Philadelphia seems to be at odds with Ben
Only 50 days until the season begins, and I can’t
I’ve been playing this game damn near my whole life. There have
been a bunch of teams that were put together and everyone was sure
they were going to end up winning. More often than not, they
Basketball is a team game that requires a lot of sacrifices to
win. We play in real life, not on paper. There are simply no
Entering next season, every team has something to prove, but the
Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and Heat are the squads who’ve got my
attention. Now, we gotta wait and see if their moves pan out.
For sure, I know I’ll be watching.