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Westward Low

By 08.14.09
King of the Pacific

King of the Pacific

In pretty much every sport — NBA, Major League Baseball, college football/hoops, boxing, gambling, competitive eating, etc. — optimism is at its highest before the real games start. The same holds true for the NBA. But when we previewed the Pacific Division yesterday, even the preseason optimism couldn’t hide one fact: This is the worst division in the League. All due respect to the reigning champs, but after the Lakers, the Pacific consists of four Lottery teams (Suns, Clippers, Warriors, Kings) who could all easily make an encore appearance at the event that Mike Dunleavy Sr. probably thinks is a mandatory spring-time BBQ with some co-workers … And yet, the Pacific can still be one of the more entertaining divisions out there. Never mind that the Lakers will win it going away — they might as well start sewing the banner now, if the Lakers even recognize mere division titles like that — but you’ve got five teams that are at least intriguing to watch. Kobe and his guys are of course worthy TV material; Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire are trying to take things back to ’05; Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson are gonna lead the Warriors to some Pop-A-Shot numbers; Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin will lay the foundation for what should be one of the most explosive backcourts in the League in due time; and the Clippers actually have reason to get excited about their future with Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin … The smart money is on Blake to cop Rookie of the Year, but his toughest competition will come from within his own division in Tyreke and Stephen Curry. Playing for weak teams built to put up points, both of them will at least get plenty of chances to get their numbers … Dime’s Ben York called Griffin, “the most NBA-ready player to emerge in the draft since LeBron.” Are you buying that? Some of our Blazermaniac friends wanted to put Brandon Roy in that discussion. (For what it’s worth, they want to put B-Roy on every list. If you ranked the best places to get a turkey sandwich on the West Coast, somebody from Portland would submit “Brandon Roy’s House” as an honorable mention.) Chris Paul and Derrick Rose deserve some mention as far as being NBA-ready, with Ricky Sanchez and Fran Vasquez ranking somewhere around 355th and 356th … (Speaking of NBA-ready, did you hear where Rudy Gay claims he’s put on 20 pounds of muscle this summer? That would put him at 240 or so; if he hasn’t lost any of that vertical, speed and flexibility, he’s gonna be a BEAST this year) … Also on that optimism tip, Flip Saunders is talking big about the Wizards, the same team who won 19 games last year. Having seen Gilbert Arenas work out recently, Flip told the Washington Post, “No question, a player of [Arenas’] talent, when he’s playing, he puts us from a team that’s competing for the playoffs to a team that’s an elite team in the playoffs. When you walk in the gym right now, you wouldn’t think that he’s hurt. If he’s at that ability when our season starts, we’re going to be an elite team in this league.” … If Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are anywhere near the top of their game, the Wizards definitely make the playoffs. Are they a top-four squad who puts a scare into Cleveland, Orlando or Boston, though? Maybe if a guy like Andray Blatche starts playing out of his mind. And we’re a little concerned Washington seems to be putting so much stock into Fabricio Oberto. It’s great that Fab won a ring with the Spurs two years ago, but on the low, the 34-year-old fell off quicker than Drag-OnQuentin Richardson got traded AGAIN, this time from the Wolves to Miami in exchange for Mark Blount. Is Q at least getting a t-shirt from the teams that are picking him up and dumping him like a Blockbuster rental? We’d analyze how Q helps the Heat, but who knows if he’s even gonna be there next week … Whatever happened to “It’s just part of the business”? From everything we’ve read and heard, Courtney Lee is having an allergic reaction to being traded from Orlando to New Jersey — as Dwight Howard was quoted in the New York Post, “He’s not just upset, he’s hurting.” We’d already penciled Lee in to start at two-guard and make a big leap in his second year, but if he’s gonna keep acting like Steve Francis when Cuttino Mobley got traded, he’ll mess around and watch Terrence Williams steal his spot. Hopefully, Lee doesn’t think he got traded because of one missed layup, and turns the sting into motivation instead of letting it set him back … You kind of figured Rick Pitino would slither out of this latest scandal relatively unhurt, but this quickly? After Pitino did the whole public apology thing (which included some odd references to 9/11), Louisville’s university president basically asked everyone to please get over it and that nothing was gonna happen to “our guy.” Do you think Pitino should be forced to resign his post at UL? Should he face any kind of disciplinary action? Over on High School Hoop, we talked to one of Louisville’s top recruiting targets about how the Pitino situation has impacted his view of the ‘Ville … We’re out like Oberto …


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