This will get the LeBron haters’ blood pressure up. The Orlando Sentinel polled 11 “NBA experts” (a.k.a. media) to handicap the Eastern Conference for next season, and the Cavs were given the No. 1 spot. The Celtics ranked second, and Orlando third. Apparently replacing Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee with Vince Carter and Matt Barnes was seen as a step backwards for the Magic, while a healthy Kevin Garnett and the addition of Shaq helped pushed Boston and Cleveland to the top … The Orlando fans will be pissed and feel like their team is being written off, but also remember that losing Rashard Lewis for 10 games could be the difference between a No. 1 seed and a No. 3 seed. By bringing in Rasheed and retaining Big Baby, the Celtics’ frontcourt is stronger despite losing Leon Powe, and Rajon Rondo may be ready to make that All-Star leap … (And how good is Ray Allen still? Yesterday we pitted Ray against Michael Redd in our “Who’s Better?” series, and according to the readers, Ray is still on top of his game.) … The Hawks, Wizards, Raptors, Bulls and Heat finished 4th through 8th in that Sentinel poll. Atlanta made one of the only personnel moves in the League yesterday, signing Joe Smith to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. It’s Smith’s 10th NBA team; Quentin Richardson might catch him by the end of August, though … Notice how the Pistons weren’t on that list? Detroit hasn’t missed the postseason since ’01, but even with their big offseason additions, they’ve got a massive void in the middle … The Nets are supposed to be one of the worst teams in the East, but Devin Harris is ready to take them higher. “It’s my team now,” Harris told reporters at his basketball camp in Milwaukee. “Obviously they wouldn’t have moved Vince (Carter) until they felt I was ready. That’s kind of the burden I’m dealt with, but I’m excited about it. Any true point guard that has a chance to be the man on his team, he relishes that.” … Jersey has some talent, they’re just painfully young. Harris is gonna get his 20 and six every night, and Brook Lopez is on his way to being a legitimate beast. Terrence Williams and Courtney Lee can be solid on the wings in due time, and the bench could use some depth, but the biggest X-factor is Yi Jianlian. He’s been killing it with the Chinese national team this summer, and he’s also been putting in work on the NYC playgrounds. If Yi can give them 15 points, some boards, doesn’t get totally destroyed on D, and basically doesn’t go out there playing like Common, he’ll be alright … Dirk Nowitzki won’t be giving anyone buckets for his national team, as he’ll be sitting out the FIBA European Championships. Dirk has always been right up there with Pau Gasol as one of those guys who is the face of his country’s team and will play no matter what his NBA owners say, but the Mavs flexed their muscle this time and finally kept Dirk out … Having made a $27 million investment in Jason Kidd and bringing in Shawn Marion, Dallas is ready to make a run now, and Dirk is the key to everything. You can see where the franchise is coming from, but like we’ve always said, a basketball player who spends his summer playing basketball can get hurt anywhere. Just because Dirk won’t be suiting up for Team Germany doesn’t mean he can’t turn an ankle working out at the Mavs’ practice facility … So it looks like Stephon Marbury‘s NBA career is over. On the off chance there was some forgiving GM that didn’t already think Steph is batsh*t crazy, now with Steph’s admission that he smokes weed, nobody will sign him if he’s also a risk to fail a drug test. Marbury has been talking about the Euroleague for years, though — but unless there’s a team in Amsterdam who needs an experienced point guard, he might be stuck looking for some semi-pro team in New Jersey that’s sponsored by White Castle … With the NFL preseason kicking off, we made sure to catch the Dallas Cowboys’ game the other night to see our guy Jesse Holley, who won a spot with the Cowboys on the Spike TV reality show “4th and Long.” If you didn’t know, before deciding to focus on football at North Carolina, Holley was a walk-on point guard on the 2005 national championship team. And now he’s got just as good of a chance at making his mark on pro sports as Sean May … We’re out like Dirk …
Smack / Aug 15, 2009 / 3:58 am
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