The season is a mere 24 hours and change away. I know you're ready. I'm guessing you're ready for a little chatting, too.
If the Opening Night edition of the Power Rankings aren't on the site yet, they will be shortly. In the meantime, let's go to the questions.
Time out . . . back in a minute
OK. I'm back.
You say no losing team has gotten back to Finals since 1989. Have you forgotten about the '98 Jazz or the '03 Nets? Come on. At least let it be known you were wrong!
You are absolutely right, Mike. Bad, unfortunate mistake in the Lakers' section of the rankings. That's why I had to step away. It's been fixed. Thanks for catching it. What I MEANT to say is that no losing team in the Finals has WON the next season's Finals since Detroit in 1989. Big difference.
You are severely underrating Orlando. They won 52 games last year and added a big in Battie and a defensive starting SG in Pietrus, while the only good player they lost was Dooling. They are at least a top-10 team and you will once again have to move them up several spots at the beginning of the season.
I've been getting a lot of these from Magic fans. Your lads will have to prove it to me. As much as I like the Rashard-Hedo-Dwight trio, as well as Stan's coaching, I'm not convinced that they're appreciably better just because they're a year older and made a couple minor tweaks. Happy to move them up if you're right.
Will Mo Williams really help the Cavs or will he be another Jeff McInnis, Ricky Davis, Larry Hughes type of player?
Don't think there's any doubt Williams will make an impact and I've yet to encounter a personnel man or scout who disagrees. Mo is a better shooter and more of a fit next to LeBron than any of those guys you mentioned. He's a younger version of the Mike -- Bibby -- whom Cleveland chased for two years before making this deal. Can't sit here and say that he and LeBron have a great chemistry yet, or that Williams has Bibby's playoff resume, but you need a point guard next to LeBron who can shoot the ball and threatens to score consistently because LeBron is going to have the ball so much and attract so much attention. Mo qualifies more than anyone Cleveland has fielded previously in the LeBron era and there is some definite promise in a three-man unit of Williams, Delonte West and Boobie Gibson as LBJ's perimeter sidekicks.
Thanks, Marc, for correcting that. Now tell us who you honestly see as a team that is deep enough and talented enough to beat the Lakers in seven games?
You really don't think Boston could beat the Lakers again? You don't think the Spurs -- I mean the real, healthy Spurs -- can do so as well?
What is it with you and the Spurs? Didn't you watch the WCF? Didn't you see the Bynum-less and soft Lakers push the Spurs around?
Yeah. I watched Manu Ginobili limp around at less than 50 percent. Can't argue with anyone who picks a Lakers-Celtics repeat in the Finals. I'm merely playing a hunch that the ancient Spurs, as presently consituted, have one more title run in them . . . as long as Manu, Tony and Tim are all 90-ish percent at playoff time.
Can you say anything to convince a pessimistic Pistons fan that this year won't be like the last four? Will they at least get rid of that maddening sense of entitlement?
You would like to think Joe D's famous speech, warning the whole team that no one is safe from a trade, would solve the entitlement issue. But we honestly don't know yet.
Do you like Larry's moves this summer. And do you see the Pacers standing pat until 2010 when they have cap space?
Best take on this subject came from Bucher -- as much as it pains me to admit -- in our team-by-team Dime series. He said something like: Loved Larry as a player, liked him as a coach and as an executive . . . loved him as a player. So much attention was paid to the Jermaine O'Neal dumping -- which, as you probably already know, I didn't like because I don't think Indy did much in that deal besides get rid of the guy in the name of starting over -- that the draft-day surrender of Jerryd Bayless gets glossed over.
I think you put too much stock in offseason moves. Ever stop to think that keeping a strong core intact, as the Jazz did, is a good thing?
You're not the only one to make this argument. But that's how I always do it early when we haven't had real games to look at. Big transaction scores like Elton Brand in Philly and O'Neal in Toronto -- in a conference with fewer powerhouses than the West has -- will always result in a nice jump in the first two editions of the rankings.
If you had your pick of frontcourt tandems, who would you choose: Bosh/Jermaine, Gasol/Bynum, Shaq/Stoudemire or Okur/Boozer?
Good one. I'd have to go Pau and Bynum, largely because of their ages, but I know what you're getting at and I'm high on Bosh and Jermaine, too. Simmons and I argue about this one all day but I think they're going to be nice together.
The Bucks' roster makes no sense. They pick up another finisher in Jefferson, but they have no PG to get him the ball.
Ridnour and Sessions can't pass? The issues are at the other end for the Bucks.
Who is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year?
In my view? It's Oden. He's going to have a big role on a team in the spotlight. But I suspect the majority would say Beasley, since he's widely seen as "NBA ready."
You really believe that the Thunder are only eight wins better than last year? They are eight wins better simply with the change in venue. They won't lose too many close games at the Ford Center. Tack on the improvements to the roster: 5 to 10 more wins. I will be disappointed with any less that 35 wins.
Prepare to be disappointed, Shane. I haven't predicted a finite number of wins and losses for each team, so I'm not sure where you saw the "eight wins better" part, but the crowd in OKC -- loud as it is -- can't make that much of a difference. Sorry.
Whose trade affected their franchise more negatively: Suns for Shaq or Mavs for Kidd?
You're not going to like my answer but I don't think you can make that call until after this season. Both of those trades were way too big to judge on a half-season.
Would Philly be higher in your rankings if it had K. Korver now?
So where does LeBron go in 2010 if Brooklyn isn't ready? The Knicks? Can we even begin to fathom LeBron's stats in D'Antoni's system?
I've always said that I see him staying. But I've also always said that the Knicks and the Nets are the two teams that had a chance to tempt him away, with the Nets in the equation largely because of Brooklyn.
I hear a lot of talk about trading Odom for Marion. It would obviously make a lot of sense for LA, but why would Miami even consider it? They're both free agents next season and I can't see them moving forward with Odom and Beasley on the wings.
Couple reasons. 1. Miami has already had Odom, knows him and likes him as a post threat, which is something that the Heat don't have right now. 2. Because they're both last-year contract guys, Miami would preserve its flexibility in case it wants to go after someone else in free agency next summer. But I honestly don't think that the Lakers are going to give serious thought to moving Lamar without taking a good look at this team first.
Why is everbody counting out the Hawks this year? They had a pretty good pre-season Will they go to the playoffs again?
Professor Hollinger lives in Atlanta and he's more down on the Hawks than I am. That would concern me as a Hawks fan. If Flip Murray and Mo Evans have big regular seasons, perhaps your Hawks will prove us all wrong and sneak back into the playoffs. If they don't, you're looking at a team with ZERO bench.
If Philly had Korver, they wouldn't have Brand. Hence they would be lower in the Power Rankings.
Obviously. Guess I read the previous question as a hypothetical . . . as if the Sixers could just add a great shooter since that's obviously what they're missing. That said, Elton is already drawing double-teams, which might lift the Sixers' perimeter percentages more than folks expect.
Will the Wizards make the playoffs this year?
I think the Wiz will retain their playoff spot even without Haywood . . . as long as Gil doesn't miss more than two months. But that's not enough of a return on the big money Washington spent this summer.
This year's West vs. last year's? What's deeper?
Last season for sure. Hard to imagine that it's going to take 50 wins to get into the playoffs with some of the stragglers at the bottom of the West.
Please tell me that the Bulls have an outside chance at the playoffs.
You can exhale now. They do.
Can the Warriors stay in the hunt for the 8th seed while Monta is out?
The Warriors, by contrast, do not. Just don't see it.
Is this finally Gerald Green's breakout year?
Have to be honest: It seems like the kid hasn't missed a shot for months. He was draining 3s in summer league and looked sensational in the preseason. The Mavs are realistic, though. They'd settle for a consistent contributor as opposed to "breakout" numbers.
Do the Warriors have a deadline to void Monta's contract? Or can they just do it whenever if he doesn't return to form. Thanks.
No deadline as far as I'm aware. If, down the road, Monta is clearly not the player he was, Golden State could move to void the deal and any such attempt to void his contract would end up in arbitration.
Do you think the Knicks have any chance of making the playoffs? By the way . . . do a lot of people call you Steiny?
I'm afraid it's going to take my man Mike D at least a year to get this crew into the playoff mix. As for your second question . . . indeed.
Will you be in Boston, Chicago, or LA for Opening Night? I'm so excited for the season to begin.
Sheridan will be in Boston and Adande will be at Lakers-Blazers, leaving me to happily watch both games on TV.
Who do you love more: Bobby Brown or Robinho?
I do love Bobby -- and you're putting me on the spot by asking this right after I got back from the annual Fullerton alumni game -- but let's not get crazy. If you saw any of Robinho's THREE magical goals yesterday, you already know the answer.
We'll do this again next week. Thanks for all the questions.