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Dime Exclusive: Elite 24 Midnight Run At MSG

Sizing up the real contenders, plus the real-life Juwanna Mann?

By 08.20.09
Vince Carter

Vince Carter

White Chocolate signing with the Magic yesterday likely signaled the last offseason move by any of the NBA’s legit championship contenders before training camp. (Assuming the Marquis Daniels-to-Boston deal is just a paperwork formality at this point.) So now that we know who’s working with what, why not start handicapping the field? … Orlando could very well run through the Eastern Conference postseason bracket again, but they probably won’t be doing it as a #1 or even a #2 seed thanks to Rashard Lewis‘ 10-game suspension. When the team will already be getting accustomed to Vince Carter and Brandon Bass and to not having Hedo Turkoglu, losing one of their All-Stars doesn’t help … But the matchup problems Orlando presented for Cleveland in the conference finals won’t be as exaggerated with the Cavs employing Shaq and Leon Powe to help keep Dwight Howard somewhat in check, plus Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker provide some length on the wings to help close out on those shooters. (Plus Mike Brown has apparently learned how to better handle a Stan Van Gundy-coached team.) If LeBron has a standard LeBron-type season, the Cavs will be right there come June … Boston is the San Antonio of the East, and vice versa: If their vets (KG/Pierce/Ray/’Sheed in green; Duncan/Manu/McDyess/Jefferson in black) stay healthy and productive, and if the defense imposes its will like usual, their young point guard (Rondo; Parker) can take them all the way to another Larry O’Brien trophy … The Lakers have to be considered the class of the West, though. Even if you think Ron Artest is a stylistic downgrade from Trevor Ariza, he’s still a top-level defender, a better offensive player than Ariza, and a guy you’d rather have on your side than not on your side. Kobe is still Kobe (unless his pinky finger falls off), Odom and Gasol will do their thing, and L.A. has shown that Andrew Bynum is just icing one way or the other … Denver got a lot of flak for not making any major offseason changes (they’re reportedly close to a deal with Wally Szczerbiak, but does that really count?), however there’s something to be said for rolling with the same crew that got you to the conference finals. Chauncey Billups can tell you about the benefits of such continuity, and since Chauncey can apparently find a way to guide East Tennessee State deep into the postseason, the Nuggets won’t be going away anytime soon. Ty Lawson as CB’s backup provides a nice change of pace, and Carmelo is officially in that highest class of superstars now. But can they depend on Nene, Birdman and K-Mart to play as well as they did last year? … After that, we think there’s gonna be one team to step up and be real dangerous in the West — we’re just not sure who it is yet. But between Dallas, New Orleans, Utah and Portland, one of them will catch fire and potentially make a surprise conference finals run … The Elite 24 high school showcase is in NYC this week, and we’ve been all over things leading up to the main event at Rucker Park. Last night we were part of an exclusive group invited to watch a “secret run” at Madison Square Garden at midnight, where some of the nation’s best high schoolers played with Brandon Jennings and Kevin Love on the Knicks’ court. Pretty sick. We’ll have videos and pics for you later today on DimeMag.com … In a story (presumably) unrelated to the lawsuit recently filed against him regarding unpaid jewelry debts (sounds like a “Judge Mathis” episode), O.J. Mayo has fired his agent and is going with a new guy named LaPoe “Smitty” Smith. Now we’re not trying to tell O.J. what to do — he’s a grown-ass man and all — but as a general rule, you don’t wanna trust your money with dudes named “Smitty” or “LaPoe” unless your “money” comes in the form of cigarettes … New trade rumor: Matt Carroll for Marcus Banks. We’re not even gonna tell you the teams involved, because it sounds too much like material for Charles Barkley‘s “Who He Play For?” segment …

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya

Forget Usain Bolt‘s “Monsters Inside Me” performances, or Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva — the Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan of her event — failing to medal. The story of this week’s Track & Field World Championships has become that of Caster Semenya. The South African destroyed the field on her way to winning the women’s 800-meter gold medal, but soon after her victory, the news broke that she’s under investigation and being given a GENDER TEST. Yes, they actually want to make sure she isn’t a man. Dime’s Austin Burton is our in-house track expert, and he admits he was initially suspicious when he saw Semenya running in the prelims, but more about steroids and less about whether there are balls involved. No joke, though, the 18-year-old is built like Terrell Owens, and she burst on the scene out of nowhere within the last year and has been dominating the best 800m runners in the world. And for the most insensitive quote of the year, here is Semenya’s coach to a British paper: “We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man.” The Juwanna Mann jokes are just too easy … We’re out like Marcus Banks …


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