It’s basketball season, and 2010 Crescenta Valley High School alum and avid sports fan Brock Hendricks is back to talk hoops with CV Weekly sportswriter Brandon Hensley. There wasn’t any room to analyze Russell Westbrook’s terrible on-going fashion choices, but the two still managed hit the other important topics in the NBA.
Brandon: Brock, welcome again to the pages of CV Weekly, this time for our NBA preview. You’re a Knicks fan who lives in Utah, so naturally I’m going to start off asking you about the Lakers. My personal take is the loss of Dwight Howard is addition by subtraction. That drama is over, and the roster is younger and more talented than it was last year (Nick Young and Jordan Farmar). No matter when Kobe Bryant returns from his Achilles injury, I see the Lakers at least making the No. 7 seed in the West. I can’t wait for you to tell me how wrong I am.
Brock: Brandon, thanks for having me. This should be a real dream for CV Weekly to pair us up again.
As much as I’d love to disagree with you about the Lakers finishing low in the East, I can’t. Arguing is what you and I clearly do best, but you’re spot on with this prediction. They’ve made some positive strides by signing guys who truly want to be Lakers. Guys like Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman provide a bit of added depth that will fit well in that Mike D’Antoni offense. However it’s not enough to keep up with some of the powerhouses in the Western Conference. Seventh place seems about accurate.
Brandon: So what about the Clippers? Will they finally be able to take over L.A.? They’ll obviously have a great regular season, but it’s gotten to the point where that’s not enough. If Russell Westbrook is healthy, I might like the Thunder over them, as well as the Grizzlies. Why? Because Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are going to have to take the next step, whether it’s a better outside game, or being reliable free-throw shooters. But maybe their new coach Doc Rivers will actually make that much of a difference. This should be at least a conference finals team.
Brock: One thing we know from a Doc Rivers team is they will be disciplined and they will play smart basketball. The best thing for two young guys like DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin is to put a proven, veteran coach to whip them into shape. The hiring of Doc as coach could very well be the final push they need to move from “potential” to “contender” in the West. I think the Clippers will be fully equipped to fight off Golden State and make a run at the Pacific Division. I’m sure we’ll be predicting the 1-8 seeds in each conference later on, but Oklahoma City is the team to beat in the West. With or without Westbrook, they are the favorites.
Brandon: Let’s move to the East. Derrick Rose is back after missing the entire 2012-13 season with his busted up knee. Can his presence be enough for Chicago to dethrone Miami? I say maybe, but also with the mild surprise that if it isn’t the Bulls, it’ll be Indiana. I simply think it’s too much for any team in this era to go to four straight NBA Finals (Boston in the 1980s was the last team to do it). Both the Bulls and Pacers will be beyond determined to beat Miami, and considering the Heat absolutely should have lost to the Spurs in that sixth game in the finals, the time is right for LeBron to get knocked off his perch, if only for a year.
Brock: The East is going to be fun to watch in 2014! It’s Miami versus the world. There are a few teams that have built themselves up to be major competition against The Heatles. Indiana proved with last year’s performance that they are a top teamt, however they simultaneous proved that they can’t keep up with Miami individually. Chicago looks to be the next closest team; Derrick Rose and his MVP-caliber play give the Bulls an ultimate lift. If anyone’s going to take down Miami, it’s them.
LeBron and the Heat are the clear cut, undisputed favorites. It’s going to be really hard for anyone to take them down. I don’t buy that it’s anyone else’s year. There’s no reason to believe that they won’t.
Brandon: “The Heatles.” Stop. Just stop. You’re making me sick. I’ll give you a paragraph, if you so want, to talk about the Knicks. I mean, I don’t know why anyone would want to read it, but go ahead.
Brock: That hurts man.
The Knicks clearly had their best chance at ending their 40-year title drought last season. This year will be hindered by some bad contract moves including Andrea Bargnani and the re-signing/over paying of J.R. Smith. It’s clear that there’s not enough talent around Carmelo Anthony this year to make a deep run. The goal this year should be to just beat out Brooklyn.
Brandon: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said a million times: No team with Carmelo as its main guy will ever win a title.
It’s prediction time. I think the top four in the East will be Chicago, Miami, Indiana and Brooklyn. In the West, it will be the Clippers, OKC, San Antonio and Golden State. The MVP will either be Kevin Durant or Chris Paul, and I have the Clippers and Pacers in the NBA Finals. If that right there jinxes the Clippers, that’s okay be me! Have at it with any predictions, Brock.
Brock: In the West it will go Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Clippers and Golden State as the top four with Memphis, Houston, Denver and the Lakers as your bottom four playoff teams.
In the East I’ll take Miami as the number one seed, followed by Chicago, Indiana and New York. Brooklyn, Cleveland, Detroit and Washington will fill out the remaining seeds. I’ll take Miami over Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, whether myself or the average NBA fan will like it or not. I’m predicting Kevin Durant as your league MVP in an exciting year of basketball. I certainly can’t wait for tip-off!